Bushman’s volleyball education continues

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Story And Photo By Joe Kusek Of The Outlook Staff
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Freshman Makenna Bushman of Joliet is among the leader in kills for the Rocky Mountain College volleyball team this season.

Freshman Makenna Bushman of Joliet is among the leader in kills for the Rocky Mountain College volleyball team this season.

For Makenna Bushman, the education extends beyond the classroom.

The first-year student at Rocky Mountain College is also on an accelerated learning curve for the volleyball court.

A year ago, Bushman’s plan of attack for Joliet was simple: A little hop step with the hips facing the net followed by a jump and big arm swing.

“You hit it hard and put it down,” said Bushman who finished as the J-Hawks career leader for kills. “In high school, I liked to slam the ball into the ground.”

This year, things are little different.

First, she is playing a new position, moving from middle to outside hitter. Second, the players across the net are as tall, if not taller. Third, there are myriad decisions to be made in splitsecond time.

“Hits and tips that fall in high school don’t fall here. It was a rude awakening,” Bushman said of the collegiate level.

“All the teams, the players are so good. College, you have to find ways to be technically sound. In college, any time you get an aggressive play, it’s a win.”

Bushman is earning passing grades, on and off the court.

Entering this week, the 5’11” freshman ranks second for the Battlin’ Bears with 177 kills. She had five double-figure matches, including early career highs of 14 against Carroll College twice.

Bushman, who has started 16 of 24 matches, also has 29 block assists and five solo blocks while playing across the front line.

“She is so competitive,” said Yang Yang, the Rocky head coach of Bushman. “Makenna doesn’t care if she misses or not, she wants to win the game.”

Bushman has played for Yang the past three seasons on the MonChina club team.

“Her quickness,” Yang added, as to why she recruited Bushman. “She has quick arms and is not afraid to swing.

“Makenna is focusing on the details and is still learning. She just works so hard. Makenna is always working hard to get things fixed.”

Having played outside hitter for Yang before eased the transition from high school to college volleyball.

“It’s a mindset,” said Bushman. “With an outside hitter, it’s a fine line. You want to stay aggressive enough but you also want to limit your errors. You have to decide to take an aggressive swing or just getting the ball.”

Bushman has been playing volleyball since a young age, deciding early that it was her favorite sport.

“I didn’t like contact. I don’t like to touch other people,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t realize how much I liked volleyball until I got into other sports.”

And despite not liking contact, Bushman also played basketball for the J-Hawks.

“Being one of the taller girls, you have to play,” she said. “I played post … I got pushed and shoved around.”

Volleyball was her calling.

Bushman was a two-time Class B all-state selection, helping Joliet reach the Class B state tournament four straight years.

The J-Hawks were third in 2017, second in 2019 and won the state title over Huntley Project in 2020.

“Finally,” said Bushman of defeating the perennial power Red Devils.

Now the teenager is creating a new volleyball path.

“In the preseason, our nonconference schedule was so tough,” said Bushman. “I remember in Havre the first two matches, I was absolutely awful. I got subbed out. The last two matches, I came right back and something clicked. I grooved a little bit.

“There is no letup in matches at this level. Every match is like a state tournament. It’s more fun when there is more on the line.

“I am 10-fold a better player of where I was when I first came here.”

And part of the learning process also involves tinkering with her pre-match routine.

“Hair,” Bushman said with another smile. “Buns are bad. I put my hair up in a single pony tail.

“We’re still testing it out.”

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