Competitive Spirit

Football and baseball standout Jake Nadley and girls volleyball setter Keely McMahon join a distinguished list of Palisades High students who have won the Palisadian-Post Cup Award as the outstandng senior athletes of their graduating class.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Keely McMahon & Jake Nadley Are Palisades High’s Outstanding Senior Athletes

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

One of them loves to win, one of them hates to lose but both Keely McMahon and Jake Nadley possess that competitive spirit that lies deep in the heart of every champion.

No two individuals had a bigger impact on their teams this last year, which is why they have been chosen 2018-19 Post Cup winners as the outstanding senior athletes at Palisades High.

McMahon was the catalyst of the girls volleyball team’s improbable run to the City Open Division championship, an outcome not even her coach believed was possible when the season started back in August.

Jake Nadley is headed to College of Idaho while Keely McMahon will join her sister at the University of Oregon.
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

“Keely was the heart and soul of our team,” Pali High pilot Carlos Gray says. “She was the engine that drove us. We don’t enjoy any of the success we’ve had this year without her effort and passion.”

As the setter whose job it was to run the offense, McMahon had the nack for knowing who had the hot hand and for what to say to get her teammates going. One of only four seniors on varsity, she guided the Dolphins through league play undefeated and embraced the leadership role until her fellow co-captain Alex Laita returned for the team’s magical playoff run.      

“Winning the Post Cup Award is a huge honor and means a lot to me because it is recognition for three years of hard work and dedication to my Pali varsity team,” says McMahon, who lives by the Palisades Village. “I am especially grateful since, out of all of the other sports at Pali, I was chosen for this. I am beyond happy!”

McMahon attended Corpus Christi School from kindergarten through eighth grade and has an older sister, Erin, who is finishing up her sophomore year studying sports management at the University of Oregon—where Keely will be joining her in the fall.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make college volleyball happen for me,” she admits. “It is a crazy, rigorous process to get recruited, so I decided to look at colleges that had everything else I wanted. In the end I was deciding between the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Oregon. I chose Oregon for its amazing school spirit, academic opportunities and  because my sister is there.”

Jake Nadley led the football team in receptions and interceptions.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Her favorite class at Palisades was Honors U.S. History with Mr. Carini in her junior year because he made the class interesting, but she also enjoyed a Business class with Mr. Kolavo because of the energy and because she is considering studying business in college.

“My parents definitely have the biggest influence on me because they’ve always pushed me to be the best athlete and person I can be,” she says. “They always support me and advise me to make good decisions, they have been there for me throughout my whole volleyball career and showed up to every game and event. I also really admire Coach Gray who never stopped believing in me, pushed me to play my absolute hardest and trusted me enough to keep me on the court even in pressure moments and intense games.”

McMahon got into sports at an early age, swimming at the YMCA and competing in meets. She also did horseback riding at Sullivan Canyon until she was 11 and played AYSO soccer until she switched to Pee Wee volleyball at Sunshine Volleyball Club.

“I could play every position back then and became pretty competitive and invested in volleyball at 12 years old,” she recalls. “The coach had me be a setter because I was quick to get to the ball and loud on the court. I stuck with the position because I wanted to touch the ball every play and be part of the action. I never wanted to leave the court. I love volleyball because the court is a place where I can forget about anything else going on in my life and keep my mind focused on the game.”

Jake Nadley’s glove sparked Palisades’ run to Dodger Stadium.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Perhaps the match that sticks out most in her mind is the Dolphins’ semifinal upset of Granada Hills in which they rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth set and ultimately prevailed in five.   

“Granada Hills had beat us in the finals the previous two years I was on varsity so when we had to play them this year again, I was determined to win,” McMahon says. “After we lost the first two sets it was my job to keep everyone positive and playing hard. We really came together the next three sets and I was so happy. However, we still had to beat Taft in the finals and they were tough but we won and get to have our CIF win on the banner in the gym. It’s the best senior year I could ask for.”

Palisades finished with a program-best 40 wins and won its first Southern California Regional playoff match, but McMahon was not done. In the spring she helped the Dolphins’ sand squad reach the semifinals  of the Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League.

“Both require a lot of focus and agility but while beach has two players on the court, indoor has six so all contribute and have a specific role,” she explains “Beach is more relaxing for me, however I love being in the competitive environment of indoor volleyball.”

McMahon, who was selected to the All-Western League first team, hopes to play club volleyball at Oregon and enroll in the Business program, or see what other majors she might be interested in. For now, she just wants to have fun with her friends this summer and spend time with them before they all leave for college.

Keely McMahon set the Dolphins to the City Open title in the fall.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Anyone who watched Nadley on the football field or the baseball diamond no doubt got to witness a spectacular catch—for that’s what  he does best.

Nadley was nothing short of sensational in his senior season on the gridiron, leading the Dolphins in receptions (38), receiving yards  (600) and touchdown catches (six) and earning first team All-League and All-City honors as a defensive back, where he made a team-high  six interceptions and was second in pass deflections (five). Aided in large part by his tenacity and athleticism the Dolphins’ secondary  was responsible for 15 takeaways, (13 interceptions, two fumble recoveries) and broke up 26 passes.

“In a time when many parents and coaches want kids to focus on one sport, the fact that Jake has excelled in two is awesome,” Pali High football coach Tim Hyde says. “He is the prototypical four-year player who just got better and better each and every season.”

    Nadley was Rookie of the Year on the JV team as a freshman, made All-League as a junior and as a senior he took pride in being picked one of the four varsity captains and won the Joe Spector Award as the team’s co-MVP. His quickness, determination and instincts allowed the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder to outmuscle bigger players to the ball.     

“At the end of the day, Jake’s ultimate strength was his competive edge on the football field,” Hyde adds. “He wasn’t the fastest, tallest, most talented kid but he was near the top of Division I in so many statistical categories. He is super competitive and without a doubt he made plays that impacted the biggest games.”

Nadley got the first turnover of the season with a one-handed interception early in the Dolphins’ opener versus Cleveland and later scored the team’s first touchdown of the year on a 27-yard reception.  He picked off a slant pass late in Palisades’ 24-17 comeback victory at archrival Venice and scored all three of his team’s touchdowns  in its season-ending loss to Eagle Rock, finishing with five catches for 76 yards.       

“Winning the Post Cup illustrates all the hard work I have put in over four years leading to much success,” says Nadley, who lives in Westwood and went to Paul Revere Middle School. “I am very humbled and grateful to win this award. It means a lot to me to get  this kind of recognition for the work I put in on the field.”

Showing his versatility, Nadley also earned All-League honors in baseball, patrolling center field like a Venus fly trap—snaring any ball that he could track down. His diving catch to end the fifth inning  preserved a one-run lead in the City Open quarterfinals versus Granada Hills and in the sixth inning of the Dolphins’ 1-0 semifinal victory over El Camino Real six days later he sprinted 30 yards to snare a line drive in the gap to help Palisades advance to the upper division final at Dodger Stadium for the first time in 30 years.        

“Jake was always hungry to catch fly balls—he cherished it with every pitch,” Pali High baseball coach Mike Voelkel says. “He took that football mentality and attacked any ball that was in the outfield. He really learned to read hitters’ swings and make adjustments on his own and pass on information to others in right or left field. The biggest compliment I can give him is that he made his teammates better and we all benefited from his competitive drive.”    

Keely McMahon got Pali High to the IBVL semifinals this spring.
Photo: Dane Selznick

Nadley also delivered clutch hits—none bigger than a suicide bunt that allowed a teammate to score from third amidst a five-run rally in the sixth inning of Palisades’ 8-5 Tiger Classic triumph over San Fernando on March 30.

Nadley belted 18 hits with 11 runs batted in and 22 runs scored and he stole 16 bases. In the field he ended with 24 catches, 23 put-outs, one assist and zero errors—a perfect 1.000 percentage in the 30 games he played.

“I like football and baseball for unique reasons,” Nadley adds. “I love the physicality in football and having to impose your will on the other team every single play. I like how baseball is more a mental game and thinking about all of the different scenarios that can take place. You have to have a pretty high sports I.Q. to be able to play both sports.”

The memory Nadley cherishes most in football is beating Venice on its home field two times in a row. In baseball he’ll remember most upsetting El Camino Real to go to the championship game at Dodger Stadium. His favorite class at Palisades was AP U.S. History taught by Mr. Berry, his favorite teacher.

The next chapter for Nadley is at The College of Idaho, where he will continue his football career alongside safety and fellow Dolphins co-captain Will Janney.

“I chose it because I saw the opportunity to play wide receiver  along with the comfort I felt in the school and the program,” he adds. “It’s also cool to go play with one of my best friends, Will.”

Nadley’s 11-year-old brother  Jonah plays football, basketball and baseball and his sister Jordyn is a sophomore at Pali High who plays soccer and runs track.   

“The person who has had the biggest impact on me is my grandma,” Nadley says. “Her constant fight and will to never give up led me to be who I am on the field.”