Snohomish senior Mac Whyte is The Herald’s 2021 Volleyball Player of the Year. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Snohomish senior Mac Whyte is The Herald’s 2021 Volleyball Player of the Year. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Herald’s Volleyball Player of the Year: Mac Whyte

The versatile Snohomish senior and four-year starter capped her accomplished prep career in style.

Mac Whyte was a dynamic, all-around force for the Snohomish High School volleyball team over the past four seasons.

The versatile outside hitter peppered opposing defenses with her well-placed spikes. She was a constant serving threat. She provided steady and reliable passing. And when she was needed at middle blocker one year, she filled in and excelled there too.

“When you have all of that in one player, it’s pretty amazing to watch,” first-year Panthers coach Ann McNeil said.

As a four-year starter, Whyte helped Snohomish to a combined 58-14 record and three Class 3A state tournament appearances. She was a three-time All-Area selection by The Herald and finished with career totals of 768 kills, 506 digs and 194 aces.

The 6-foot-2 senior capped her accomplished prep career this spring with 149 kills over the abbreviated nine-match season, while delivering a whopping 5.3 kills per set on a .314 hitting percentage. She also supplied 3.0 digs and 0.6 aces per frame and led the Panthers to an 8-1 record.

For her exceptional season and high school career, Whyte is The Herald’s 2021 All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.

“You kind of had the whole package deal when you had Mac,” said McNeil, who also coached Whyte when she was in eighth grade. “She commanded the court on defense and on offense.”

After mainly playing middle blocker prior to high school, Whyte started at outside hitter as a freshman and helped Snohomish to an eighth-place state trophy.

The following year, the Panthers had a need at middle blocker. To aid the team, Whyte moved back to her old position and played a key role in a 19-2 season that included an unbeaten run through Wesco 3A/2A and a fifth-place state trophy.

Whyte then switched back to outside hitter for her final two seasons. Last year, she averaged 4.4 kills, 4.7 digs and 1.1 aces per set while helping lead Snohomish to a third consecutive state berth. And this year, she churned out kills at a pace that would’ve had her threatening to reach 300 in a full season.

“She made every set look like it was a good set,” McNeil said. “And a hitter that can do that makes the whole team look good. We had some unbelievable setters. Our two setters are amazing. … But if we had a bad pass and they had to bust their butt to get a set, Mac would make it look good.”

McNeil said Whyte’s court vision as a hitter stands out.

“There’s a lot of hitters that go up and just wail on it,” McNeil said. “But she uses her eyes to see where the ball needs to go. … Yes, hitting hard is great. But knowing where to hit and when to hit super hard and when to not hit super hard is even more valuable.”

Whyte said she benefited from a healthy shoulder and added strength this season.

After hurting her hitting shoulder in track and field as a sophomore, Whyte played through the injury during her junior season of volleyball. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring, that gave her an opportunity to rest and heal. After her shoulder recovered, she built strength through weight lifting.

“I think that helped with my swinging,” she said. “As a senior, I was able not only to read the court as well as I used to, but now I could hit harder and hit spots faster because I had more muscle to do that.”

In addition to Whyte’s elite talent and versatility on the court, McNeil described her star senior as the ultimate leader and the team’s heart and soul.

“Her leadership style is so incredible,” McNeil said. “She’s so humble on the court that it just makes her stand out all the more. … The hitter always shines, but she always wanted to make sure that the passer and the setter shined as well.

“Honestly, that was the coolest part of coaching Mac,” she added. “You have a lot of great athletes on the court. But when you have someone like that — a total standout that (realizes) it’s about the team — it’s pretty special.”

McNeil said Whyte was instrumental in helping her teammates enjoy and make the most of the challenging circumstances that came with playing through a pandemic.

Prior to the season, Whyte led by example with her dedication to the team’s outdoor workouts in the cold January weather. And on bus rides during the season, she kept the mood light and fun by belting solo renditions of the hit song “Shallow” by Lady Gaga.

“I mean, how can you not just love that girl?” McNeil said. “… She made the best of (this season). And when you have a leader like that, the kids follow. She influenced the whole team in a positive way.”

Whyte’s older sister, Megan Silver-Droesch, was also a volleyball star. Silver-Droesch played four seasons at the University of Connecticut from 2003 to 2006. She now is in her seventh season as the head volleyball coach at Eastern Connecticut State University.

“I look (up) to her a lot,” Whyte said. “She gives me a coach’s perspective and also a player’s perspective. So I go to her (for advice) a lot.”

Whyte said she aspires to play college volleyball and went on a recent recruiting visit. She said she’d like to study to become a zoologist, which stems from her longtime interest in tigers.

“The whole recruiting process is so different this year,” McNeil said. “Mac deserves to play somewhere, and she could play at a high level. … Mac could make another team better — not just because of her skill, but because of her character. I think everyone needs a Mac on their team.”

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