Mention Independence senior Makenzie Holley and the words tenacious and energetic immediately come to mind. Whether it is on the basketball court or the softball diamond, Holley plays every game with unbridled passion.
"Makenzie is a tremendous athlete and a leader on and off the court," Independence head girls basketball coach Mark Cuthbert said.
Holley's leadership ability and unselfishness were quickly evident from her early days as a high school athlete, according to Indy head softball coach Ken Adkins.
"(Makenzie) is selfless and the ultimate team player," Adkins said. "As a freshman, I asked her to be a slapper because I thought it helped make our team better. Despite what many thought, she did whatever I asked her to do.
"That same year in the middle of a game, I had her go back to the right side during an at-bat and she hit her first and only varsity home run. Our fans went crazy. Her next at-bat, I had her slap again and she drove in another run slapping. I knew that day I had found the best Makenzie Holley."
During her early years, Holley was somewhat torn between softball and basketball, but that all changed with age and numerous years playing travel softball.
"I have played softball ever since I could pick up a bat," Holley said. "When I was younger, it mostly depended on the day, between softball and basketball. Since I have gotten older, I have grown to love softball so much more and every other sport has been just to keep me in softball condition. We have all grown into a family with the coaches, the parents and the players over all my years here at Independence. I had a strong foundation in basketball with a core of four or five players, but nothing like my softball family."
As a freshman and sophomore, the postseason brought frustrating losses in the sectional round for a talented Lady Patriots team. Last year that all changed when Indy finally battled its way past Wyoming East and Shady Spring to earn its elusive state tournament berth.
On a team that had six senior starters, Holley, then a junior, made it her mission to see that her teammates closed out their careers at the state tournament.
"We knew we had a chance last year. I had the mindset that I had to do whatever it took to make it to states and help my friends have a successful senior year," Holley explained. "I didn't know it at the time it could be my last (high school) season as well. I wanted to be the player picking them up and the player they could lean on, even when they made a mistake. I like to bask in everyone's glory, not just mine."
Losing six seniors can be hard to rebound from. However, Holley is convinced that if the Lady Patriots do get on the field this year they can make a return trip to the state tournament.
"I definitely feel like we can contend for another shot at states," Holley said. "We may struggle some in the beginning because we are so young, but I really think a lot of people are overlooking us. We have multiple people at every position competing every practice. I think we will have a stacked starting lineup with a few players that can come off the bench to help us."
Like seniors all across the Mountain State whose season is now on hold now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Holley waits patiently, hoping she can get back on the field for her final high school season.
"About the first week it really hit me hard. I was emotional and crying, but I was trying to stay strong for my teammates and not let them see how bad it really was for me," Holley admitted. "Ever since then, I have been praying and praying we get a chance. Even if we would get a 10-game season, that would be great."
Ultimately, it was Holley's faith in God and a key Bible verse that brought her peace, knowing that whatever happens, it will be the right thing for her.
Psalm 46:10 — "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
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