Mackenzie Long found her way home.
The 2014 Walworth Big Foot High graduate spent the past six years chasing and achieving many of her volleyball dreams in the state of Missouri.
Now she is set to continue down that path back in her home state. Long has joined the prestigious University of Wisconsin volleyball program as a volunteer assistant coach, a move that was announced in May.
“I really enjoyed Missouri, but I got back to Wisconsin in the middle of March and have just been so happy to be home,” Long said. “I moved to Madison about two weeks ago. We’re in a very uncertain time, obviously, so I was a little anxious about what things were going to look like. But now we’re kind of moving in the right direction.”
Long spent four seasons (2014-18) as a starter for the Saint Louis University volleyball team and started getting into coaching at the club level during her later years in college.
For the past two seasons, she was an assistant at Missouri S&T, a Division II program located in Rolla, Missouri.
While Long’s new position with the Badgers is an unpaid full-time position, she is looking forward to learning more under head coach Kelly Sheffield—who has helped lead UW to seven straight Sweet 16 appearances and two trips to the national championship match (2013, 2017)—and his staff.
“It’s a great opportunity, because Wisconsin is a great program and the coaches have done some really special things,” Long said. “The biggest thing is just learning from them and soaking everything in and being a part of that staff. There’s a lot to learn and take in.
“I’ll also be able to work with some of the best athletes in the country, so it’s great.”
The Badgers went 27-7 last fall. They were swept by third-ranked Stanford in the NCAA Championship match.
Long’s new gig will also reunite her with a coaching staff she has known since the days when she was being recruited out of Big Foot.
“They recruited me before I committed to Saint Louis, and I was actually their first visit,” Long said. “I remember they had just been hired at Wisconsin. ... I’ve kept a good relationship with them over the years. I’d see them at club tournaments and say hi, and last summer I actually worked camps with them.”
Long is also friends with Angel Agu, whom she is replacing in the volunteer assistant role. Agu played for Dayton, which is in the Atlantic 10 Conference along with Saint Louis. Agu left the Badgers program in March to take an assistant coach position at Rhode Island.
“She’s been a really good resource for me, just being able to ask questions about her two years as a volunteer and what she did on the side to make some money to provide for herself,” Long said. “She pushed me to go after the position, so I’m really thankful for her.”
Long said she is eager to get the season started. The volleyball players recently returned to the UW campus for voluntary workouts amid COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions.
If everything works out, Long and the Badgers would open their season in late August or early September.
“I’ve been a lifelong Badger fan, so it’s exciting to be in Madison and to be back in the Field House, where my parents took me to so many games growing up,” Long said. “To be down on the floor with the team instead of up in the stands ... I’m just excited to be part of that atmosphere.”