Volleyball has opened up myriad opportunities for Notre Dame Academy standout Morgan Hentz, yet another successful product of the Northern Kentucky Youth Volleyball Club.
She has mastered a new sport after excelling in youth basketball, soccer and diving. She’s traveled all over the region to play in tournaments and all-star events, and flown to far-flung destinations including Minnesota and Colorado, where she has competed against some of the best high school volleyball players in the country the past three winters.
She’s won awards and honors, including the 2013 PrepVolleyball Defensive Dandy, several class of 2016 players-to-watch designations and the 2014 Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association player of the year watch list. She has competed at the USA Volleyball Youth Division and Select Division levels, playing for the A-1 Red Team, the top national team in her age group, and trained and competed at tournaments and holiday camps on an invitation-only basis at the USA Volleyball training center in Colorado Springs. She’s made countless new friends, and had conversations with college coaches and important people on the volleyball scene. She’s open to more while shooting through the national youth pipeline that takes the best and puts them on the U.S. Olympic volleyball team. “I hope one day to win a national championship when I get to college,” said the junior outside hitter. “But winning state is the first goal, and possibly being in the Olympics one day.”
Lofty goals for someone who did not possess prototypical volleyball size when she began high school barely 5-feet, 6-inches tall. But Hentz is in the middle of a growth spurt that has taken her to 5-9 and could possibly top her out at 5-11.
“She’s a kid with good springs, and very strong with a lot of velocity on her swing – a heavy hitter,” Notre Dame first-year coach Buck McCoart said. “She sees the floor very well, and can find hitting spots, with the hand control to get it there. She excels on defense with great reading skills. She’s going to be a very good college player.”
Right now, Hentz is one of the best in the nation in her class and one of Kentucky’s elite. A returning all-conference, all-region and all-state honoree, she was one of 20 finalists for last season’s prepvolleyball.com national sophomore player of the year award. She’s a contender for state and national Gatorade player of the year awards this year and next.
Hentz is being recruited by every major NCAA Division I volleyball program, having already turned down Florida, Michigan, Texas and USC. She’s narrowed her choices to Stanford and defending national champion Penn State, where 2013 Notre Dame graduate Heidi Thelen is playing.
Last year, Hentz led the state runner-up Pandas with 534 kills, coming within 12 of the school single-season record 546 set by Thelen her junior year. Thelen’s career kill record is 1,583, well within Hentz’s range over her final two seasons.
“To college coaches, what sets Morgan apart is her defense. She plays center-back for us and she’s being recruited as a libero,” McCoart said. “Where it’s checkers to most girls at the high school level, it’s chess to her. She’s smart, always two moves ahead of everybody else, and takes advantage of her knowledge.”
Hentz, who carries a 4.237 weighted grade-point average, is one of eight NDA juniors in a new system. “I love defense. I like the feeling better when I get a dig than a kill, and I want to help my teammates get better on defense,” she said.
“That’s the other thing,” McCoart said. “She knows the game, and I found out she’s a great leader.”
It was business as usual on both ends of the floor for Hentz in Tuesday’s season-opening 3-0 sweep of Scott. She tied for the team lead with nine kills and 12 digs. Next up for the Pandas is traditional power Mount Notre Dame on the road Tuesday.
“My scouting report on Morgan,” McCoart said, “would be not to hit the ball to her.”