Rondolyn Bryant, Dajah Selvage key cogs for McKinley volleyball team

McKinley High School senior Rondolyn Bryant has a passion for volleyball.

Bryant, a 6-foot middle blocker, and Dajah Selvage, a 5-7 senior setter, are the captains for the Panthers, who will face new challenges this season with a move from Division II to Division I.

“I’ve fallen in love with the finesse of the sport,” said Bryant, a returning All-Metro player. “Each team gets up to three hits, and often the third hit seals the fate of that point. I like playing the middle because there are so many different angles to hit from there.”

Bryant is a three-time all-district player and last season registered 398 kills, 144 digs and 90 blocks. McKinley coach Brenda Simon said Bryant’s game has evolved. As a freshman, Bryant would come out when it was time to rotate to the back row. As she prepares for her senior season, Bryant knows she will be relied on to play a variety of roles, including some on the back row.

“Rondolyn’s passing and serving have improved a lot,” Simon said. “She’s always been strong at the net. She’s very unselfish and is one of our leaders. Early in her career we worked to toughen her up, and now she’s a force.”

“Rondolyn is the most consistent hitter on our team,” Selvage said.

“Her passing has improved, and her defense is solid. We use our defense to set up our offense.”

Others in the top seven rotation for McKinley include senior setter Rachel Eley, 5-11 senior middle blocker Theonique Wishham, senior outside hitter Hannah Sanders, junior outside hitter Chyanna McGee and freshman outside hitter Whitney Jones.

Selvage started her career as an outside hitter, but Simon quickly suggested a move to setter.

Keisha Selvage, Dajah’s mother, was an outstanding setter and also played for Simon, who has coached McKinley since 1984.

“I realized that Dajah could play setter,” Simon said. “She has very good hands and good control of the ball. She’s very agile and quick and gets to a lot of tough balls. She sees the court well and gets us going.”

“We’re going to be good this season,” Selvage said. “We’ve got some strong seniors, and we’re really working hard. We have lofty goals.”

Bryant appreciates the things Selvage can do.

“Dajah is a really good communicator and an excellent passer,” Bryant said. “She makes our offense go.”

McKinley (15-8) was the Division II district runner-up to Lutcher in 2012 and won the previous two district titles.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s new two-year enrollment-based classification cycle put the Panthers in Louisiana’s highest level for volleyball, Division I.

McKinley joins Division I, District 2, which also features traditional power St. Joseph’s Academy (38-5), which finished 12-0 in district last season. Simon said Zachary High also is among the teams to watch.

“We’re excited to play St. Joseph’s,” said Bryant, who also plays basketball and runs track. “We know it will be intense when we play. We’re going to play with confidence. As a middle blocker, I’m going to protect the net for McKinley.”

In turn, Simon has confidence in Bryant and Selvage to handle their leadership roles. Success in two summer leagues and going unbeaten in a team camp are other reasons for the Panthers’ confidence.

“We welcome the challenge of our new district,” Simon said. “We’ve always played a tough nondistrict schedule. I like our team chemistry. We’ve really bonded this summer.”