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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
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Published June 13, 2024

A daughter’s tribute: Mckenna Wucherer’s purpose for pink

After losing her mother to breast cancer at the age of three, Gophers volleyball outside hitter proudly wears pink to carry on her mother’s legacy while advancing her own.
Image by Amaya Battle
”Mckenna can fly,” Greg said in an interview with the Minnesota Daily on Oct. 17. Mckenna Wucherer on Oct. 15, 2023.

Mckenna Wucherer, the outside hitter for the Gophers volleyball team, is often seen hitting kills on game day with her hair tied back with a pink tie and her feet sporting an even brighter pink pair of shoes.

The shoes and hair tie are not just a stylistic choice. When Wucherer was just three years old, her life changed. Wendy Wucherer, Mckenna’s mother, died of breast cancer on Dec. 7, 2007.

Now, playing collegiate volleyball, Mckenna proudly wears pink on game days as a way to show her support not only for her mother but for the 42,500 people who die from the disease each year.

Growing up, Mckenna had her father and two older sisters to help her out. Much of the time, her father, Greg Wucherer, was not around because of his demanding job as a firefighter.

“It would be like 24 hours where he would be home and then all of a sudden he would be gone for 24 hours,” Mckenna said. “It was very fast-paced growing up.”

Nonetheless, Greg did what he could to support Mckenna in her volleyball career.

Mckenna started the recruiting process when she was in middle school, with colleges routinely packing the gym to watch her play. She was receiving letters from Big Ten teams by the time she was in seventh grade. Greg assisted her in replying to interested coaches.

“He was with me every step of the way,” Mckenna said. “For every club tournament, he was there driving me eight hours to play volleyball, taking off work just so we could live out our dreams.”

Mckenna was in eighth grade when she decided to pick up the pink shoes and rock them on the court for the first time. She said wearing pink socks was too common among athletes, so with the help of her father, she found a pair of pink shoes for her club volleyball matches.

Close-up of Mckenna’s all-pink ​​Nike G.T. Cut 2 on Oct. 15, 2023. (Image by Amaya Battle)

“I honestly think after a lot of girls saw me do it, I see them doing it now,” Mckenna said. “I wanted to bring awareness to such a big issue.”

Beyond wearing the pink shoes, Mckenna continued to show her support throughout high school. Scott Spiess, her former volleyball coach at Brookfield Central High School in Wisconsin, said Mckenna would work with the parent volunteers to help organize Dig Pink nights on game days.

“She always had dedication, whether it was the pink shoes or pink hair ribbons,” Spiess said. “You could tell [her mom] was on her mind.”

Mckenna’s exposure to volleyball came at an early age when she played in the driveway against her sisters. All three have made their way to play at the college level. Greg believes her sisters’ devotion to the game led to Mckenna following in their footsteps.

“As much as Mckenna won’t admit it, the two older sisters playing volleyball — she followed right along,” Greg said.

As a stubborn young competitor, Mckenna knew she wanted to play at a high level. So, she practiced like the pros.

“They try to teach the girls to serve underhand when they first learn to play volleyball,” Greg said. “That kid would never serve underhand.”

Spiess said Mckenna’s skillset was “advanced for her age.”

The Wucherer girls were inspired by their mother, Wendy, who played competitively in high school. Greg only played baseball and basketball growing up and took credit for just one of his daughters’ skills.

“Mckenna gets her jumping ability from the old man,” Greg said.

When Keegan Cook was first hired as the head coach of Minnesota volleyball, he didn’t know much about the Wucherer family. His only encounter with Mckenna before his tenure was when he watched her once in eighth grade.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘It’s not possible for someone to be this good at volleyball at this age,’” Cook said.

Mckenna said she hopes to exit the Gophers program leaving a legacy both individually and collectively, but her goals don’t stop there. After college she hopes to play in the Olympics, a goal she has had for as long as she can remember.

All it takes is one look at Mckenna’s pink shoes as she flies off the ground for a kill to know it is much more than a fashion statement. It is a reminder of everything she has persevered through for her mother, Wendy.

Mckenna Wucherer on Oct. 15, 2023. (Image by Amaya Battle)

Greg was with Wendy for 20 years and married for 15. Wendy was first diagnosed with breast cancer when Mckenna was just six months old and she battled it for three years. 

Greg said all three of his daughters have different parts of Wendy in them. But, he said, all three have Wendy’s intelligence and beauty.

“The one thing that Mckenna acquired — she has the bluest eyes,” Greg said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

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  • Gina
    Oct 29, 2023 at 3:47 pm

    it’s very sweet that she’s so consistently dedicated to honoring her mom’s memory like that, so in a way both parents are still with her and supporting her volleyball.

  • Dwight Hartmark
    Oct 26, 2023 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve followed Gophers volleyball for years and with all the talent they’ve had through the years, I can honestly say she’s one of my favorites!