After graduating from Angelo State University on Dec. 14, former Jourdanton volleyball standout Makenzie Griffin still has another chapter to write in her athletic career.
The 6-foot tall college graduate announced she will head west to play beach volleyball at Division I school Long Beach State University in California, starting this spring.
The whirlwind move started during her sophomore year at Division III school Texas Lutheran University. Griffin was looking to move away from TLU and came across the beach variation of her beloved sport.
“I was like, ‘Wow! That looks fun. It looks exciting,” she said of her introduction to the game.
The two-year process, which will now span three schools in two states, was hard to describe for Griffin.
“It’s been crazy. If I could just describe my collegiate experience, it’s just been a ride,” Griffin said.
Her initial plan was to transfer from TLU to a school that offered beach volleyball. But, Griffin still needed to relearn the game to adapt to the sand.
So, she opted to head west to San Angelo and Division II Angelo State, where she and the Belle volleyball team won the Lone Star Conference tournament and posted a 29-3 record en route to the regional semifinals this past season.
After reaching out to head coach Chuck Waddington following her sophomore season, Griffin knew San Angelo was the best place for her to go at the time, still toting her beach volleyball dreams with her.
“What sold me on Angelo was, they played at such an elite level,” Griffin said. “I knew Chuck would make me a better player all around. It’s just such a good, family-oriented program. I didn’t really have that at
Waddington also recognized this girl from South Texas would go a long way to solidifying a program that was prepared to make more deep runs in the postseason.
“Her athleticism [stood out] for sure,” Waddington said. “Explosive athlete, tons of fast twitch. Things you can’t teach.”
It wasn’t an easy transition for Griffin once she stepped on campus at Angelo State. Griffin eventually found her groove in blue and gold and wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I loved it,” Griffin said of her time at ASU. “I just had so many good friendships, so many good relationships. I didn’t really get that at my first school.”
Winning a conference championship this year also helped Griffin leave a mark on the court before making the full switch to the sand. It was also her second-straight trip to the DII South-Central Regional tournament.
“Last season was so awesome,” Griffin said, also noting adversity her team faced in 2019. “I’ve never been on a team that’s won that much before. We only had three losses. When we won the conference championship, I think everyone just started bawling because we just worked so hard.”
With two seasons of eligibility left, Griffin will don the black and gold of the Long Beach State Sharks — formerly the Dirtbags as homage to their mining roots — into 2021.
That’s two more years as a collegiate athlete, the same amount of time the former Squaw has worked to reach this goal.
Between seasons, Griffin would take time to travel around the state to play beach volleyball tournaments and hone her craft on the sand, all in hopes to get picked up.
“I just wanted to get better so I could get picked up and play for a good school,” Griffin said.
She originally was committed to a school in Texas to play beach volleyball, but Griffin wanted to get out of her comfort zone, to get out of Texas. The school understood and helped turn her to her new home overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“I just realized I didn’t want to be in Texas anymore. I just needed to grow. I just needed to get out and do my own thing,” Griffin said. “The school I was committed to was very understanding and said ‘Hey, this school [Long Beach] is looking for someone. Hit them up.”
Griffin emailed Long Beach and the rest, as they say, was history.
The biggest thing that sold Griffin on Long Beach were the similar qualities between her new home and her Alma Mater, Angelo State. Both schools felt like family and her future teammates confirmed that.
“[Head coach Mike Campbell] said his team is very family-oriented and they care about the players,” Griffin said. “I’ve been talking to my future teammates and they’re just so kind and giving. That’s something I want, especially when I’m going somewhere that I’m not going to know anyone.”
Praise from former coaches
Griffin has left her mark at Angelo and Jourdanton before that. So, it should surprise nobody that some of the coaches in her life are singing her praises.
“[Makenzie] has grown tremendously as both a player and a person in her time at ASU,” Waddington said. “I’m so proud of her development in those areas in such a short period of time. She has tremendous physical gifts as an athlete and a killer work ethic to want to be great. That will serve her well at Long Beach State. I’m excited to see her compete at that level.”
Although not a volleyball coach, Jourdanton Athletic Director Darrell Andrus praised the former Squaw for continuing to set a high level of excellence as a bar for current players to shoot for.
“Those type of success stories, you almost can’t put it into words,” Andrus said. “You’re ecstatic, you’re happy. She’s obviously worked very hard representing herself, her family, and, obviously, her high school. We’re ecstatic for her and her family. What a neat, neat adventure and accomplishment. It’s awesome. We’re very proud.”