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Women’s Volleyball: Morris’ unorthodox journey in the Big Ten

The Lantern
Anna Morris in front of the Covelli Center for her first Ohio State media day after transferring from the Northwestern Basketball program. Photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics.

From Division I basketball to volleyball and one Big Ten school to another, a phone call changed the trajectory of Anna Morris’ collegiate athletic career.

After three seasons of playing forward for Northwestern women’s basketball, Morris decided to enter a new chapter of her athletic career, stepping away from basketball, the game she grew up with.

Driven by an unwavering desire to rediscover her passion for sports, Morris embarked on an unconventional journey, deciding to swap sports and schools within the same conference.

Ultimately, she found her calling as a middle blocker for Ohio State’s volleyball team, returning to a sport she had always excelled in.

Anna Morris, born in Mahwah, New Jersey, grew up around athletes. According to Ohio State’s Athletics, her mother swam at Seton Hall, and her brother and sister were involved in athletics as well.

Anna Morris said her brother, John Morris, plays high school football and her older sister, Julia Morris, was her setter on the volleyball court in high school. .

Separated by two years, the sisters grew an inseparable bond, strengthened further by their shared love for sports. They played volleyball together, and both were members of their middle school track team.

However, Anna Morris was drawn to a different sport, opting to stick with the hardwood instead of the track.

Before she held a volleyball in her hands, Anna Morris was already paving her way to stardom, honing her skills on the basketball court.

“I played basketball since I was very young and didn’t start playing volleyball until the seventh grade,” Anna Morris said.

Anna Morris said although basketball was a source of joy for her, volleyball was too. So much so that she couldn’t decide which sport to play in high school, ultimately deciding to go for both.

During her high school volleyball career, Anna Morris earned the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year award in her junior and senior seasons and led Immaculate Heart Academy to state championships every year she played, according to Ohio State’s website .

The moment after winning a state championship is typically a time to celebrate, but for Anna Morris, that couldn’t last long. She knew she needed to prepare for another sport just around the corner.

Nearly a week later, the dual-sport athlete was in the gym prepping for basketball season.

Given her early start in the sport, Anna Morris turned out to be a star in high school hoops. The 6-foot-3 forward poured in points from the post and was a defensive stopper.

Those skills earned her a host of accolades in basketball as she was named an All-American during her senior season in 2019 and made the New Jersey All-State team all four years of high school, according to Ohio State’s website ,.

Anna Morris was a household name in her small town, and her performance caught the eye of basketball and volleyball scouts from DI colleges across the country, including Michigan and Virginia Tech.

Despite her decorated high school volleyball career, Anna Morris opted to play collegiate basketball.

“I loved both so much, I still do, but when it came time to make the decision, I went with basketball because that was what felt more normal to me,” Anna Morris said. “It was the safer route in terms of attention I was getting from schools.”

Anna Morris said she eventually accepted an offer from Northwestern in 2019, a Big Ten school that had been to the NCAA Tournament as recently as 2015 before making it again in 2021 with Anna Morris on board.

“From the start, I took school and sports very seriously, and Northwestern happened to be a very high [ranked] academic school and in the Big Ten,” Anna Morris said.

Over her first three years at Northwestern, Anna Morris said she was a rotational forward for the Wildcats, seeing the court in 49 games and helping them reach the NCAA Tournament in 2021.

Near the end of her time at Northwestern, Anna Morris said she realized she wasn’t where she wanted to be in her athletic career.

“As a college athlete, you should be going in every day wanting to get better, wanting to be there for your teammates, wanting to win games, and I think I was totally numb to that,” Anna Morris said.

Anna Morris said she was ready for a change in scenery in multiple ways. She opted to enter the transfer portal, no longer as a basketball player but as a middle blocker/outside hitter volleyball player.

“I don’t want to be a normal student, but I don’t want to play basketball anymore,” Anna Morris said. “I just knew that wherever I ended up I was going to be happier regardless.”

When Morris entered the portal, she sought the help of her sister, who went through a similar athletic experience.

“She went through a similar situation. When I hit my low point, she told me, ‘Anna, it’s not the end of the world, you can transfer and switch sports and it’ll be OK’,” Morris said. “She was that model for me throughout the process.”

Julia Morris said she transferred from Delaware after two years to Rutgers to join their rowing team.

“Trust your gut and take risks, everything happens for a reason,” Julia Morris said. “You really can’t predict where you end up.”

After not playing organized volleyball for three years, Anna Morris said she decided to take an unorthodox route to promote herself in the portal.

“I sent out a bunch of emails, I sent my high school highlights, I sent my basketball highlights and then I went home and started training by myself, and made highlights of that, just me hitting balls,” Anna Morris said.

After spending months in the portal and talking to schools like Penn State, Indiana and Michigan, Anna Morris said she found her match when she connected with Ohio State head volleyball coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg.

“It was a couple months until I even got to talk to Ohio State, so it was a stressful couple of months. It was a waiting game,” Anna Morris said.

For Oldenburg, Anna Morris’ highlight package piqued her interest and gave the two a chance to talk.

“I watched the video and saw that she could run a slide, which is no surprise as a basketball player with her height and physicality. That’s what started the first phone call,” Oldenburg said. “[I] got her on the phone, and we felt she’d be a good fit for our culture.”

After that phone call, Anna Morris got a chance to tour Ohio State’s facilities. After seeing the campus and getting to meet the team, she said she knew she was in the right place.

“I love this school. From the second I reached out and talked to Jen on the phone I felt wanted, welcomed and at home,” Anna Morris said. “When I came here on my visit, I got dinner with the girls and we hit it off right away.”

In her time with the team so far, Anna Morris has been happy with how she’s retained her volleyball ability.

“I’ve surprised myself a little bit with the things I’m good at, and I’ve given myself a lot of grace in being able to pick up the tempo of things,” Anna Morris said.

Anna Morris said although she has not played a set of volleyball for Ohio State, she’s already had the time of her life.

“This experience will be something I’ll talk about for the rest of my life. I’ve learned so much about myself through this entire thing,” Anna Morris said.

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