Spike it like Sherwin
Only a sophomore, Quinnipiac volleyball’s Morgan Sherwin is ‘setting’ the tone for the Bobcats as they try to recover from a shaky start
“When there’s no block – and you can see that there’s no block – it’s a great feeling. You know that the defense behind you is calling out who’s up and who’s not blocking. If you hear a ‘Hole!’ call, you know that it’s going to be a good swing on it.”
There are few things in sports that make the crowd roar – a slam dunk, a home run or a goal, maybe. But the feeling of swatting a clean spike in volleyball? That’s the best feeling in the world for Quinnipiac sophomore Morgan Sherwin.
In more ways than one, there wasn’t always that assurance that she would be spiking volleyballs at the Division I college level.
Morgan always knew volleyball was her main sport, but that didn’t stop her from trying out others. She played soccer through sixth grade, then picked up high jump and track and field throughout high school. Still, volleyball was her passion.
“I kind of just always knew high jump was just an extra thing to keep me in shape,” Sherwin said. “With high jump, it got my vertical up higher for jump training [for volleyball]. The high jump coach was a volleyball coach. I knew his daughter and I played with them. So, he knew I was only doing it to get me ready for college [volleyball].”
Her high jump strategy was effective, as college coaches came flocking midway through her high school career.
“We had to start recruiting maybe sophomore or junior year,” Sherwin said. “Then, just playing at [club] tournaments. I knew that [current senior] Kat Miller had gone [to Quinnipiac] and she played at my club team. So, I kind of just looked at this school and I loved the campus and everything.
“There were a couple [other school options]. But, once I visited here, this was always my first choice.”
The left-handed Sherwin played right side hitter naturally, but when she arrived at Quinnipiac, head coach Kris Czaplinski offered her a new challenge to try to get her on the court. Miller, a junior at the time, played right side hitter, so Czaplinski made the choice to bring Sherwin in as a setter.
“She’s not a setter,” Czaplinski said bluntly. “…By adding her as a setter with her and [then-sophomore] Maria [Pansari], we would have a better block in the front row to go against the big teams in the conference. It just didn’t work as planned so we moved it back to the 5-1 [formation] where Morgan was a lot more comfortable hitting on the right outside.
“We needed her in the game. Her ability to change the game is what makes her so special.”
The 5-1 formation utilizes just one setter, while the 6-2 formation utilizes two. The switch to the 5-1 benefited everyone. Sherwin was back in her natural position and the team had more hitters on the court.
The role of the setter is to, well, “set,” their teammates up to get kills. When the setter hits the ball to a teammate who gets a point, the setter gets an assist. Even though Sherwin only played part of her freshman season at setter, she still finished the season second on the team with 180 assists.
“It was a little difficult coming in as a setter because I haven’t really set that often,” Sherwin said. “We would come in before and stay after practice. It was a fun year though.”
At right side and outside hitter, the main goal is to get kills off the setter’s passes. Sherwin finished the season with 160 kills, making her the only player on the team with over 25 kills and assists. Yeah, only 25, and she finished with 160 and 180, respectively. The two positions she played were drastically different.
That may seem like a lot to handle as an 18-year-old freshman. New school, new state, new position…new life. Still, she wasn’t phased.
“I love the pressure situations – all of the high-energy, high-atmosphere things,” Sherwin said. “So, it’s a lot of fun when you have the emotion of going through things.”
Her coach echoed the same sentiment when asked if he expected Sherwin to thrive as much as she did as a freshman last season.
“One-hundred percent,” Czaplinski said. “She gives – I don’t even know if you can say more than max effort – but you know that you’re getting the absolute most out of her every single play.
“…Did I expect her to start as a freshman? I did. I expected her to make a big mark on the program – and she did. I just wish we could’ve made the [position] switch a little bit sooner, looking in hindsight.”
This season, Sherwin has been able to stick in one spot – her natural spot – at right side hitter. She’s responded with a team-high 119 kills through 12 games, including a career-high 22 in Sunday’s win over Saint Peter’s. Her confidence this year at the natural position is evident.
“She’s one of those girls that you don’t have to worry about,” Czaplinski said. “You know what you’re going to get out of her every single day. She’s just such a gifted athlete. So dynamic. She does things that you can’t teach. Is she going to be more confident this year? Sure. Is she going to get better and better every single year? Of course.”
Despite Sherwin’s solid play, the Bobcats struggled through non-conference play, finished just 1-9 and winning only eight total sets (first team to win three sets wins the game). Quinnipiac played some tough opponents from all across the country – including teams from California, Texas and New York – so the win-loss record isn’t indicative of the experience the team gained. With MAAC play on the horizon, the Bobcats aren’t shook.
“I think we feel really confident right now,” Sherwin said. “We’ve been working extremely hard and we’ve been playing higher competition and giving them a run for their money. We’ve played really well for a couple of sets, so now we just have to get more consistent and we should be OK.”
Even though Sherwin is only a sophomore, it is clear that she’s a leader of this team.
“That’s all we’ve been thinking about since day one in the preseason,” Czaplinski said when asked if he considered Sherwin a leader of the team. “We have big things in store for her as far as her position and who she is to this team. One-hundred percent, she is a big part of what we’re doing and she’s already established herself as a leader.”
Leader or not, Sherwin only has one thought in mind for the rest of this season.
“Every team’s goal is to win a MAAC Championship. We all really want that.”