Hurricane no match for mom determined to see her MHS graduate play volleyball in Florida
Nov 06, 2018 05:00PM
● By Jana Klopsch
Mikayla Weichers (L) spikes the volleyball during one of her Pensacola State College matches. (Hailey Lotz/Pensacola State)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
Even the threat of a hurricane – what turned out to be the worst one to hit the continental U.S. in more than 50 years – did not stop Nikki Weichers from flying to the Florida panhandle last month, to attend her daughter’s college volleyball matches for the first time.
“My mom called the day before we left to warn us not to go,” Weichers said. “But my sister and I were determined to get down to see Mikayla play three home matches at Pensacola State College. We got to one; but the hurricane wiped out the other two.”
Nikki and her twin sister Jodi arrived in Pensacola – on the far west end of Florida, a stone’s throw from the Alabama state line – on Oct. 8. They arrived in time to see Mikayla’s Pirates volleyball team sweep a match. But the same killer hurricane that flooded cities, closed a freeway and left nearly a million people without electricity, also forced the postponement of two other matches the sisters had flown nearly 2,000 miles to see.
“The storm was horrible for millions of people – but not where we were,” Nikki added, speaking from her daughter’s volleyball practice in Florida. “The hurricane actually didn’t hit Pensacola too hard. It was east of here. We were still able to surprise Mikayla and see one match, along with a few practices. She cried when she saw us – and her teammates did too – so the trip was still worth it, to surprise her.”
Mikayla Weichers is finishing up her second volleyball season at Pensacola State College. The 6’4” member of the Pirates’ women’s volleyball team graduated from Murray High School in 2017.
But even though Pensacola State recently changed from a two-year junior college, to a four-year school, she hopes this will be her final season with the Pirates.
“I have enjoyed it here so much – but I want to get to a larger program,” Mikayla said. “So far, I have been looking at one school that contacted me – Coppin State University (Baltimore, Maryland) – but have not yet decided what my next step should be.”
Not knowing what is coming next is right in Mikayla’s wheelhouse though, pretty much describing her entire athletic career.
For starters, while many higher-level athletes begin competing in their sports at a young age, Mikayla did not. As she entered Murray High School for her sophomore year – in 2014 – she had never played volleyball or even attended a match.
“I tried basketball, soccer, swimming, even tennis as a younger kid – but never volleyball,” she said. “But I was 6-foot-2 starting my sophomore year and I knew I did not want to play basketball. So, I finally let my mom talk me into trying volleyball.”
Nikki and Jodi played volleyball at Brighton High School, before graduating in 1997. Nikki topped out at 5’10” and did not play college volleyball. But she thought her oldest of three daughters would love it.
“I encouraged Mikala to try out for the Murray team,” Nikki said. “I just knew she would love it.”
What’s the old saying – mothers know best?
“I was embarrassed and nervous at the start of that first day of tryouts,” Mikayla added. “But by the end of the first day, I already knew I loved volleyball.”
Murray High School’s varsity volleyball coach four years ago was Cheryl Jones, now the Spartans’ freshman head coach. Mikayla believes her strong coaching and support is a big reason why she stuck with the sport.
Mikayla was not an instant star. She received no varsity playing time as a sophomore and was only a back-up her junior season. As a senior she finally started and earned all-region honors.
That led to college scholarship offers from five different schools before she ever heard from Pensacola State. So, again, she didn’t know what she was doing until the last minute.
“I have always loved the beach, from our days of taking family trips to Disneyland,” Mikayla said. “So even after visiting two schools in Pennsylvania and two more in Kansas, I just wasn’t in love with any of them. Then finally – long after the other schools had contacted me – I heard from Pensacola State. I decided to go there, despite not having enough time to make a campus visit like the others.”
The Pirates’ former head coach saw Mikayla play in a video posted to a volleyball recruiting website.
Her current head coach at Pensacola State, Jennifer Belarmino, has never recruited a Utah player before – but is thrilled to have Mikayla.
“Mikayla has improved tremendously since the start of preseason,” Belarmino said in an email. “She has become a reliable blocker, forcing the opposing team to attack away from her because of her size. Mikayla is very coachable and adapts quickly. She is a hard worker and is learning and improving. I look forward to seeing how she finishes up the season.”
Mikayla’s mom is not surprised to hear that praise.
“I am so ecstatic; she surprises me every day,” Nikki said. “She pushes herself to the max. She wants to be in the Olympics and pushes herself so hard she may just do it. It was scary when she went all the way to Florida. But I supported her.”
So much so, that when hundreds of thousands were getting away from the Florida coast – because of Hurricane Michael – Nikki and her sister were flying toward it.
“My mom has raised me and my two younger sisters as a single parent and has always been my number one supporter,” Mikayla concluded. “She is definitely my role model and I always work hard to make her proud.”