Morrow one of stars of tomorrow
By Mike London
South Rowan’s Kayla Morrow had an opportunity to compete against the best 16-year-old volleyball players in the country this summer.
Morrow flew back from the USA High Performance Championships held in Tucson in late July with her eyes opened a little wider, but there was still a confident smile on her face.
“Wow, it was such a different level of competition,” Morrow said. “I had to look at all of it as a learning experience, but I thought I did well.”
If you haven’t heard of the junior before, you will soon. She’s one of the county’s better multi-sport athletes in the Class of 2010.
She’s already been a standout for South softball for two years. She was a difference-maker in volleyball as a varsity sophomore, and she’ll be a key performer on the basketball team this winter, now that all those tall girls ó Katie Wise, Katherine Van Wieren and Kim Wilson ó will be college students.
Volleyball has mostly been a low-profile sport in Rowan County, something for basketball players to do to keep in shape in the offseason. But a lot of coaches have been putting in a lot of hours for a long time to change perceptions, raise expectations and alter the standings in the NPC and CCC.
A sign of progress is South will have at least three legit college volleyball prospects this fall in Morrow, senior hitter Taylor May, the 2007 Rowan County Player of the Year, and senior setter Krista Haywood.
“We won’t have as much power as last year,” Morrow said. “But we should do very well with our all-round play.”
The daunting challenge for Rowan volleyball players always has been that most of them aren’t introduced to the sport until they arrive at high school.
The 5-foot-10 Morrow has been playing only two years. Her natural athletic ability, quickness and unusual spring have helped compensate for a late start, and she’s learned skills from South coach Jan Dowling, Carson’s Trish Hester and Rowan Chaos Junior Olympic coach Chasity Rowsey.
Morrow was chosen to play for the 10-girl Carolina Region team in the High Performance Championships after surviving a series of tryouts and evaluations that culminated with an intense, three-day camp at Greensboro College.
Morrow’s team was one of 83 competing in several age groups in a week-long showcase in Arizona. She traded pins ó and spikes ó with girls from Hawaii and played in eight matches at the Tucson Convention Center.
“Most of the girls were really tall,” Morrow said. “I’m 5-foot-10, so I’ve always been a hitter, but on this team was I was playing a lot of defense on the back row and serving a lot more than usual.”
Wisconsin, Iowa and Oklahoma were the top three squads in her National Youth Division, and Morrow said her Carolina squad finished ninth.
Her lasting impression was just how inexperienced she was compared to most elite players.
“There were a lot of teams from southern California, and the girls from there started playing volleyball at the same age we start playing T-ball in North Carolina,” Morrow said.
That’s a lot of ground and time to make up, but Morrow is confident she closed the gap a bit this summer.
She’s now in USA Volleyball’s pipeline and will be considered for future regional and national teams. Another plus is recruiters had a chance to watch her in Arizona and evaluate her as a college prospect in what is probably going to be her best sport.
“It was all cool,” Morrow said. “And once we started tryouts and practices at South, Coach said she could already see a big difference in my defense. That made me feel great.”
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