By Jerry Briggs
Special to The JB Replay
Volleyball star McKenzie Adams was in the house again Friday night at the UTSA Convocation Center, and, just like old times, the crowd cheered her presence.
This time, the former All-American for the Roadrunners was introduced as an honoree in the inaugural class of the UTSA Athletics Hall of Fame.
As the crowd stood and showered her with applause, Adams flashed the ‘Birds Up’ sign to fans who attended the pre-game ceremony on the first day of the season.
Later, the Roadrunners (2-0) completed their second straight-sets victory of the day, this one over the Missouri State Bears. Earlier, they dispatched the Texas Southern Tigers.
The scene in the pre-game lead-up to the Missouri State game was emotional, with Adams walking in, only to be greeted by former teammates and also by well-wishers who were fortunate enough to see her play in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.
With the crowd filling most of one side of the bleachers on the lower level, considerable volume was produced. Adams was clearly moved by the cheers. She loved it especially that some of her former teammates had gathered to greet her.
From days gone by, Jordan Kotara, Elise and Brandy Huskey, Paige Hamilton and a few others were on hand.
“It means everything that they showed up,” Adams said. “I didn’t know that they were going to come. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. You know, it takes six people on the court. To have them support me like this was a blessing. It was awesome.”
Adams, an athletic 6-foot-3 outside hitter, was humbled to get the call notifying her that she had made UTSA’s inaugural class.
“I’ve tried to put into words what it means,” she said. “To be a part of the inaugural class, it’s such an honor.”
Others who made the first class include former athletic director Lynn Hickey, former football coach Larry Coker, football player Marcus Davenport, basketball’s Devin Brown and track and field’s Tameka Roberts.
Adams, who grew up in Schertz and attended Steele High School, started her college career in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Virginia and then transferred to UTSA.
In her time with the Roadrunners, playing for former UTSA head coach Laura Neugebauer Groff, she earned honorable mention All-American honors as a junior in 2012 and then made the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America third team as a senior in 2013.
“I knew Virginia was not the place for me,” Adams said. “So I came back home, like a little lost puppy, not sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go. Laura reached out and kind of took me in and said, ‘We got a home for you here.’
“The rest is history.”
Not only did Adams reap all-conference honors each year she played in college, her teams won most of the time.
At UTSA, the Roadrunners went 67-28 overall and 40-8 combined in seasons spanning the Southland, the Western Athletic and Conference USA.
After UTSA lost to Texas A&M in the 2013 NCAA volleyball tournament, she answered the call and extended her college athletic career just a bit longer, playing basketball for former coach Luby Lichonczak.
“Obviously winning is going to be the best memory,” she said of her time on the UTSA campus. “But just being around the girls, being around the team, those were my best friends. I’m just grateful to them and everything that we got to do together.”
In the pros, Adams has pretty much seen it all, living in outposts such as Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Aachen and Schwerin in Germany; Istanbul in Turkey and both Conegliano and Novara in northern Italy.
“Volleyball’s allowed me to travel the world,” she said. “Not even playing, after the season, I’ve been to Croatia. I’ve been to Greece. I’ve been to places in Turkey. I’ve been able to experience different cultures. It’s been absolutely amazing.”
Now, in a few days, she’ll have her bags packed for a trip to Japan to play another season on a one-year contract. Not bad for a 31-year-old gym rat.
“I’ve always said, until they stop paying me, I’ll keep showing up,” she said.
UTSA downed Texas Southern 25-19, 25-14 and 25-15 on Friday morning before returning for the nightcap and whitewashing Missouri State, 25-21, 25-12, 25-19. UTSA will host Texas A&M-Commerce on Saturday at 2 p.m.