The career that McKenna Melville always envisioned is set to happen. Just a little sooner than she originally thought.
A recent graduate with a teaching degree from University of Central Florida after earning All-America honors as a 6-1 outside hitter, Melville was hired as a math teacher at Eagan, her high school alma mater. She was a two-time All-State selection in 2016 and 2017, and the 2017 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.
Her mother, Hall of Fame volleyball coach Kathy Gillen, has been the head coach at Eagan since the school's inception in 1989. When McKenna took a teaching position at the school, Gillen stepped down and Melville was offered the head coaching job a day later.
She will take over as head coach and leader of the Eagan volleyball program — with her mother as her assistant and chief confidante — this summer, upon completion of her student-teaching requirements in Florida.
"I always knew I wanted to come back to Eagan, but I didn't know the path it was going to take," Melville said. "When I sat down and talked with my mother a little bit, we thought this might be the perfect opportunity. The ball has been rolling ever since."
Often, top volleyball players choose to play professionally, either overseas or in beach volleyball, after graduation or seek opportunities to compete for various national teams.
Melville said she had received feelers from organizations seeking her services, but she felt ready to jump into the coaching pool.
"They either wanted me to start in January, right after NCAAs, or wait until August," she said. "But I never felt the next chapter in my life included playing volleyball, but it did include coaching."
Melville recalls playing volleyball when she was two, when her parents set up a balloon volleyball net in their basement. Watching her mother coach for so many years whetted her appetite to follow her path, and she feels she couldn't have better training.
Of the myriad things learned from her mother, Melville said, dedication and commitment are the most important.
"My mother was always present. At every practice, every summer workout or extra session," she said. "She went to their club matches and other sporting events. She built relationships with her players and they knew she cared about them."
Melville said she's still adjusting to the idea that the future she dreamed of is on the cusp of realization.
"I don't think it's hit me yet," she said. "That will probably happen when I'm finally home in May and have a season coming up to prepare for."