Morgan Moss had all the reasons to walk away.
There were the coaching changes. Three head coaches in four seasons, including the coach who recruited her being let go before Moss put up her first pass for the Montana State Billings volleyball program.
With the coaching changes, came the position changes. Originally recruited as a setter, Moss was shifted to libero immediately upon arrival on campus, moved to defensive specialist on the right side last year and is now a defensive specialist on the left side for this season.
And the losing hasn’t helped. After playing every set for a 17-11 team her freshman year, Moss has endured seasons of 5-23 and 11-16, the latter a year ago after the team started 5-0. In high school, Moss led Fowler, Colo. – coached by her mother Sandy -- to the Class 2A state title and being selected the 2A player of the year.
But the easiest reason to walk would be the injuries: A season-ending shoulder injury her sophomore season, re-injuring it again late last season and now a constant ache that doesn’t go away.
Leaving would have been simple.
But you don’t walk away from your passion.
“I don’t like quitting,’’ said Moss, a 5-foot, 5-inch package of technical skill and self-admitted silliness for the Yellowjackets on the court. “I’m very passionate about volleyball. I’ve been doing it all my life.
“I can’t imagine my life without volleyball. But my body is telling me this is definitely my last year.”
Moss ranks among the MSUB career top 10 for digs and would be for aces if not for the shoulder issues.
When healthy, she plays. Moss has played in every match her freshman, junior and senior seasons.
“I don’t like quitting,’’ she said.
Moss missed the final 19 matches of her sophomore year after tearing the labrum in her right shoulder, and because there are lingering problems, she does not serve any more.
“We make sure she doesn’t do a lot of overhand stuff,’’ said MSUB head coach Lisa Axel, who took over the program earlier this year. “We try to be cautious about it. We want to make sure Morgan is on the court when we need her.”
Moss explained she has nodules that build up under her scapula that must be rubbed out by the MSUB training staff. “We can’t get rid of them.”
“I really don’t look at the records,’’ Moss added of what could have been. “I don’t think about those things, what-if? That stuff doesn’t mean anything 10 years from now.”
Recruited by Dana Cordova as a setter out of Arvada, Colo., Moss never got the opportunity to play for the coach who recruited her. Cordova was replaced during the summer by Steve Smith.
“I was terrified,’’ Moss said. “I was not sure if I wanted to come here. It was a huge change, to find out the coach who recruited you was not here anymore. But it was too late to sign with another school.”
The next change came when Smith moved Moss to the back row.
“Learning to be a libero was a lot of work, it’s all positioning,’’ said Moss. “You learn to read the hitters. Those middle hitters coming after me, that was horrible at first. It was a daily thing to get better.”
And having been a setter, Moss knows the importance of having a good first pass.
“Having been there, I know where setters want the ball,’’ she said. “I know I have to make a good pass. You don’t want your setters running all over the place. I apologize to the setters after a bad pass, I know how they feel.”
Along with ranking among the career top 10, her 40 digs last September against Central Washington ranks second-best for a single match. She also had 27 digs in matches against Alaska Anchorage and Notre Dame du Namur that rank among the top 10.
“Morgan really solidifies our defense,’’ Axel said. “She is very consistent for us in the back row and she has been great for team leadership.”
Moss is one of only two seniors on the young MSUB roster – middle hitter Jody Lutz is the other. Moss is the first to crack a smile or make a joke to lighten the mood after a bad play.
“I try to bring energy to the court, even be silly at times,’’ Moss said. “When somebody messes up, I kind of make fun of them. We realized this season when we’re able to have fun out there, we’re able to play well.”
And when the elementary and special education major graduates, volleyball won’t be left behind.
“I want other kids to enjoy this sport as much as I have,’’ she said. “I love where volleyball has taken me.’’