McKay Looking to Improve on Historical Season with Broncos
By Luke Kilgore
For The Chronicle
For the Boise State Broncos and W.F. West alum Jessica McKay, there will be high expectations next season, to say the least.
The Broncos softball squad is coming off their best season in school history, highlighted by the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The postseason berth was short-lived, however. Boise State faltered against the powerhouse University of Washington Huskies (ranked No. 5 in the nation) before falling to Minnesota to be eliminated from the Seattle Regional and NCAA Tournament.
The landmark season broke multiple other program records, including most wins in a season (40), most conference wins in a season (18), and a first-ever Mountain West Conference championship.
“It was really a magical season and an awesome experience,” McKay said. “Our team knew what we had and we trusted each other. We just focused on winning.”
Winning is something McKay is very familiar with, due to her time with the W.F. West Bearcats. During her tenure, she helped lead her high school squad to three straight Evergreen 2A Conference titles, culminating in a 2015 state championship. McKay was also a member of a Northwest Bullets 18 Gold team that won the Triple Crown/USA National title in 2015.
According to McKay, it wasn’t just the successes that prepared her for the collegiate level, but the pitfalls as well.
“Knowing what success was is good, but knowing failure is a very good thing too,” McKay said. “We had a lot of successes on that Bearcat team, but there are failures that no one really talks about. In the end, it’s all about building who you are and knowing yourself.”
McKay got to know herself and test her will to persevere during a brutal senior year at W.F. West.
Coming down for a rebound in a non-league basketball game against Burlington-Edison, McKay suffered a freak accident that resulted in a torn ACL, torn meniscus, and a partially torn MCL.
McKay had never missed a full season of any sport in her life. She was originally told the recovery process would take a full year, to which she responded by focusing on rehabilitation and returning to action in just seven months—just like a true competitor would.
During her recovery, McKay still took pride in her role as a leader. She was with her Bearcat fastpitch crew, crutches and all, for the entire season. While McKay was on the mend, she continued to work on her mentality and leadership.
“I learned a lot as a person and a teammate. I’m just glad it happened before college,” McKay remarked with a chuckle.
Next season, McKay will be a junior with a full year of collegiate-level experience as a left fielder, a position she has seldom played. McKay spent all of her time with the Bearcats at shortstop.
“I played a little bit of outfield in select ball, but my first full year out there was a great experience,” McKay said. “Infield is super stressful, whereas the outfield is more free and relieving. It was a fun challenge learning how to read the ball coming off the bat at different angles.”
The Broncos graduated some key seniors, and even lost head coach Cindy Ball—the person responsible for building the foundation that took Boise State from a 12-42 squad to 40-16 in just four seasons.
McKay still seems optimistic as new skipper Maggie Livreri, coming from an associate head coach gig at Utah, plans to elaborate on the recent upswing in program success.
“She’s a good friend of (Ball) and understands what we’re about,” McKay said. “She wants to have fun, compete and get right back to where we were.”
Being bounced from the NCAA Tournament without a win left a bad taste in the collective mouths of the Broncos, and serves as the goal for next year.
“We should be right where we were last year,” McKay said. “We’ve got freshmen coming up that are hungry, and we’re ready to get that first win at the (NCAA) Tournament.”