NAU SPORTS INFORMATION
Coming from three different hometowns, a trio of Lumberjacks once shared one common club team. Several years later, Jordan Elder, Millie O’Ketter and Kacee Moore are finally getting the opportunity to share the court again at Northern Arizona University.
The story begins, at least for O’Ketter and Moore, with their parents’ friendships through the volleyball grapevines. While it was not long before they became friends themselves, their own friendship was definitely driven by their parents.
“We were on the same club team and we ended up being doubles partners for this outdoor grass tournament,” Moore recalled. “It basically wasn’t my choice. My mom said I was going to be Millie’s partner and I was like ‘OK.’ From then, we became besties.”
O’Ketter and Moore’s paths first crossed when they joined Four Corners Volleyball Club when they were in seventh and sixth grade, respectively. Four Corners is based in O’Ketter’s hometown of Durango, Colorado, a mere 51 miles north of Moore’s hometown of Farmington, New Mexico.
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Living 46 miles west of Durango in Dolores, Colorado, was Elder, who would join Four Corners two years later as a freshman in high school. Upon entering tryouts, Elder instantly spotted O’Ketter and Moore and saw their connection.
“I had never done club before high school, so I was so nervous,” Elder said. “I was from this little small town and I was nervous to go to tryouts. I met Kacee and Millie at tryouts and I thought they were sisters because they were hanging out so much. I don’t know why I assumed they were sisters, but they were so welcoming and they were the first people I felt that I could connect with at club.”
Ironically, despite Elder and Moore being NAU’s two tallest players at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2, respectively, while O’Ketter stands at 5-foot-6 as the Lumberjacks’ libero, the three of them were all outside hitters in club play. It’s a fact not lost on O’Ketter, who jokes that “they’ve all grown into their height and I’ve stayed the same.”
With the rigors of club volleyball, particularly the travel component, the three quickly became known as the “trifecta” among their parents — a nickname that has since been branded on T-shirts spotted in the Rolle Activity Center stands.
However, long before they all ended up at NAU, there was the college recruitment process as O’Ketter, Elder and Moore progressed through their respective high school and club careers.
“Both Millie and I were emailing and calling coaches early in high school,” Elder said. “We didn’t know where we wanted to go, but we were putting feelers out to everyone we possibly could. Coaches would come and watch us at club tournaments and we would talk about how NAU would be so cool. We ended up going to a day camp for recruiting specifically, and that’s when I decided I wanted to come here.”
Elder was the first to commit to the Lumberjacks during the summer following her sophomore year. Moore was next with O’Ketter eventually following suit.
“(Our parents) would always say we’re the trifecta and we’re a package deal,” O’Ketter said. “It was always a joke, but after Jordan committed and I knew I wanted to come to NAU and Kacee was still interested, it was really comforting that if this was the school I choose, I still have a piece of home and my two best friends with me It was a comforting feeling.”
Before their high school careers were over, the trio combined for numerous All-State honors and Player of the Year awards on their path to NAU. Being a year older than Moore, O’Ketter and Elder were the first to arrive in Flagstaff ahead of the COVID spring 2021 season.
While O’Ketter immediately earned NAU’s libero role from her first match and Elder solidified her spot in the middle during her sophomore season, the duo had to wait for Moore’s time to come.
Having endured two knee surgeries in high school — which jokingly led Moore to question if coach Ken Murphy still wanted her commitment — Moore redshirted as a true freshman last year. Another injury suffered in the spring led her to miss the first five matches this fall before Moore made her long-awaited debut at New Mexico on Sept. 14. Two nights later, Moore collected her first double-digit kill match in her first home match in role.
Since her debut, Moore has played in six consecutive matches and is averaging 2.21 kills per set, which ranks second on the team. Coupled with O’Ketter leading the team with 4.82 digs per set and 15 aces, and Elder ranking third with 30 blocks and fourth with 1.71 kills per set, and the trio are all playing integral roles for the Lumberjacks, just as they had for years with Four Corners.
“Sometimes I forget that I’ve played with them a long time ago and then I think about it and I’m like, ‘wow, it’s pretty cool,'” Moore said.
“It’s easy to forget that we all came from the same place especially because we all came from a small place,” Elder added. “It’s amazing that we’re all here right now, honestly. It’s easy to forget that when we’re caught up in this level and doing everything we need to do on a daily basis, but when you stop and think about it, it blows my mind. I need to do that more because it puts everything in perspective.”
With the conference slate just two weeks in, the “trifecta” is determined to get the Lumberjacks back on track this season, while also making up for lost time.
Regardless of outcome, volleyball may have brought them together, but their friendship forged at Four Corners will last long beyond the sport.
“Sometimes I catch myself thinking about the future because they’ve been in my life for so long and they’re my longest friends,” O’Ketter said. “To think of a life without volleyball and them by my side all the time in the same town, it’s going to be a weird feeling.”
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