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Photo by Joe Brown/Republican Eagle
Photo by Joe Brown/Republican Eagle

All-Area Volleyball: From crash to smashing success for Franklin

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sports Red Wing, 55066

Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

It took some broken bones and a bruised ego for Cannon Falls senior middle hitter MaKenzie Franklin to discover her dedication to volleyball.

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As an eighth-grader, Franklin showed the Bombers' coaches enough potential that she was slated to join the varsity program. But she had another passion that was a big part of her life since she was 6 years old: motocross.

Taking a practice run before a race, Franklin's varsity volleyball career took a big hit before it even got started.

"With one race left in the year, in practice, the track got changed so I went out for a lap to get used to the track," Franklin said. "During one of the sections, I missed one of the jumps and went over the handle bars and I broke my left collarbone and my left wrist.

"I remember hitting the ground and thinking, 'Oh gosh, my volleyball coach will hate me.'"

Broken, beat up and embarrassed, Franklin felt like she let the team down as she missed the entire 2008 season. So when her freshman year came up, her focus fell solely on volleyball as she gave up motocross.

"From then on, I pushed really hard to be a better volleyball player," Franklin said.

Through a four-year career, Franklin helped Cannon Falls improve from an 8-14 record in her freshman year to a 23-6 mark this fall. Leading her team in kills (267) and ace blocks (62), Franklin is the 2012 Red Wing Republican Eagle All-Area Player of the Year after helping the Bombers reach new heights in the standings.

"MaKenzie's been a go-getter ever since she's been young," said Cannon Falls head coach Melissa Huseth. "She's just a natural athlete and she just shined this year."

Franklin's knack for making plays at the net came right away as a freshman, as she finished second in school history in career kills (691) and career ace blocks (415).

"We saw that raw talent in her right away, but I would say in the last two years, she's really learned the game of volleyball," Huseth said. "As a blocker, she's gotten better at anticipating where the ball is going to go and staying with the other team's go-to hitter. She also finished third in digs this year after hardly playing the back row at all before. As she's gotten older, she's become a full-court player."

Outside the court, Franklin also evolved as a leader. With her and defensive specialist Mikayla Quinn as the only seniors in the Bombers' lineup, Franklin made it a point to give her younger teammates tips on eating right and resting up before big matches.

"When we went to Jackson for a tournament, she was making sure the girls were going to bed on time," Huseth said. "She's very good about watching what she eats. ... She's demanding, and she's a very good leader."

Beginning her varsity career on a struggling team, Franklin's goal was to help give her teammates advice that wasn't there when she started as a freshman.

"I definitely felt like a mother figure to the team," she said. "Mikayla and I really wanted to push the other girls, telling them that if you want to be successful, you have to let go of things like junk food and staying up late."

Although she gave up motocross before high school, the tenacity Franklin had on the track was something that Huseth saw on the volleyball court.

"She was very good and very aggressive; that's never been a hesitation for her," Huseth said. "Ever since she was young, she wanted the ball.

"I have some good athletes on my team, but it's almost a challenge for them to be as explosive as MaKenzie. It has helped make them better players themselves."

Franklin's commitment to volleyball paid off, as she signed a national letter of intent on Nov. 14 to continue her volleyball career at Division II Bemidji State.

"I just liked the D-II experience, and I just love the area of Bemidji and the coaches," Franklin said of signing with the Beavers.

Though her varsity volleyball career got off to a painful start, Franklin exits the Bombers program with a sense of accomplishment after leaving the team in better shape than when she entered.

"I was just so proud of my team," Franklin said. "We made goals for the team, and we were actually winning, and at midseason, we were winning and achieving these goals. We never settled for less and we worked hard."

Huseth added, "The little girls see that and they aspire to be like her. And who wouldn't want to jump like her? She's certainly been a kick-starter."

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