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Fites brings passion, power to volleyball court

Aberdeen Christian’s Mary Fites, right, tips the ball past Florence/Henry’s Aysia Stefanich, left, defends the net during Friday night’s match at the Aberdeen Christian School gym. Fites has been a key member of the Knights for the past five seasons. Photo by John Davis taken 10/22/2021

Whether serving by herself in an empty gym or playing in a national tournament in Florida, the energy and effort are the same for Mary Fites.

The Aberdeen Christian senior has a passion for the sport of volleyball that is evident every time she steps on the floor.

The five-year starter for the Knights got her first taste of the sport in seventh grade and couldn’t get enough of it.

“I remember being in junior high and there just wasn’t enough games,” Fites said. “I was like I’m not going to get to play as much as I want to, so I worked really really hard and I got on the JV and there was more games there, and that made me really happy because I got to play more.”

Since then, Fites has been a key member of the Knights from nearly every position on the floor.

“She loves volleyball. That is her passion,” said Christian coach Maggie Jett. “She has sought out whatever volleyball she can get her hands on. She’s put her nose to the grind and made herself into whoever she is today. She’s a pretty special volleyball player.”

Fites has developed as a player through her experience in the Junior Olympic program where she became a member of the South Dakota national teams, and also through time put in when no one else is watching.

“Mary never stops working,” Jett said. “She’s the one who’s flying all over the gym. She’s the one showing up every single Sunday by herself to work on her serve in the gym. She’s the one who coaches want on their team, because they’re being that example.”

Standing 5-foot-8, Fites looks a bit short compared to her taller teammates, but possesses a vertical leap that allows her to smash down kills with powerful force against the best of opposing defenses.

Fites said she works on her jumping ability with plyometrics. She also inherited some good jumping genes.

“Some of it’s genetics. My dad was an amazing jumper,” Fites said. “He played basketball and his vertical was 42 inches. That was helpful.”

Aberdeen Christian’s Mary Fites, right, reaches to hit the ball as Iroquois/Doland’s Satoya Myers, left, defends the net during a match earlier this season at the Aberdeen Christian School gym. Photo by John Davis taken 9/2/2021

Combine that athleticism with verstaility, work ethic and a passion that is second to none and it’s easy to see why Fites has left a lasting legacy on the Christian program.

“The thing about Mary that’s so cool and so fun to coach is that Mary has been through several different roles throughout her volleyball career,” Jett said. “That combined with the sheer amount of experience that she’s gotten over the years, she’s just such a well-rounded player. You can throw just about anything at her and she’s going to answer back. That consistency is just so key when you need to have a leader on the team and she’s been that for us.”

Known for her hitting and blocking, Fites is a proficient server and backrow player, and also tries her hand at setting in practice from time to time.

“It’s my dream to be a setter,” she said, “but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”

Fites is coming to grips that her days of playing high school volleyball are coming to a close. She and her teammates just recorded the program’s first-ever 20-win season and hope their season is far from over.

“Obviously, we want to make it to state. That’s our goal this year. We have to start with these first couple of playoff games and we have to get out of our region,” Fites said. “Going in I think we’re really going to focus probably on serve and serve receive. We have some good hitters and when we serve receive well we can get them going so that’s really important; and then serving tough to get the other team out of system so that we have a chance to run ours.”

No matter what happens in the post season, there is no denying the impact that Fites has had on the program and those around her.

“She’s definitely been a very positive part of my experience,” Jett said, “and I feel pretty lucky to have been able to coach her.”

Oddly enough, it all started back in seventh grade when Fites had a choice to make.

“I never expected to play volleyball,” Fites recalled. “When I was younger I danced. I always wanted to dance. I looked forward to my senior recital, getting to do my solo.”

Her mom then encouraged her to give volleyball a try and the rest is history.

So whatever happened to dance?

“I really loved it,” Fites said, “but I ended up loving volleyball more so I ended up quitting.”

And it goes without saying that the sport volleyball has been better because of it.

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