Much like a hotel wake-up call, timing matters for the volleyball setter.
The setter must be precise with both where — and when — she puts the ball. She wants to float it into the wheelhouse of her hitters at the ideal moment. No sooner, no later.
So when a setter’s timing is off, life is thrown askew. Such was the case for Baylor’s Morgan Reed, who spent three years toiling in a waiting room of sorts.
Hurry up and wait. That was her life.
“It was always going to be competitive,” Reed said. “I knew that coming in to Baylor, that I was going to have to fight for a position and fight for my role on my team. But it was hard at times to sit back and watch. I don’t think until this year I’ve played at my highest potential.”
Unleashed from the shackles of a backup role, Reed has flourished for Baylor’s NCAA tournament-bound team in this, her senior year. She has delivered 1,259 assists, a number that ranks 20th nationally. It also amounts to around 400 more assists than she had accumulated in her three previous years in Waco, which underscores just how vital she has become.
“What Morgan has done in setting that (attack) up has been great,” Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said. “Really her maturity and her leadership. She has set the tone in terms of the competitiveness in the gym that we need. We’ve seen great fight out of our team and that fight has been exemplified through Morgan from Day One.”
Spunk has never been an issue for Reed. She showed it in her first athletic pursuit, winning a pair of national championships in acrobatics and tumbling as a fifth and sixth-grader.
But she outgrew the gymnast’s path – literally, Reed stands 6-feet today – and began devoting more time to volleyball.
Without the results to show for it – at least at the outset.
“When I started (club volleyball) at 12, I was the worst on my team. I was terrible,” Reed said, laughing. “I was on the second team, just happy to make the team, couldn’t make my serve over the net. Then I just had this desire. My coach believed in me.
“I just remember this one game, I didn’t have a position on the team, I was just on the team. She asked, ‘Who wants to play setter?’ I said, ‘I want to play setter because I want to win.’”
It turned out Reed had some aptitude for flicking sets to her teammates. She doggedly worked to get better, drawing on her own spirited personality as well as the guidance of her “super-supportive” parents and grandparents.
“I’ve never been one to give up. I think it’s partially my parents, partially who I am as a person,” Reed said. “I have younger siblings, so I’ve always thought, I’m going to be a good leader for them and set the example.”
By the time she reached her freshman year at Ronald Reagan High School in her hometown of San Antonio, Reed had developed into a full-blown college prospect.
Though, admittedly, a slightly clueless one.
“I started going on (unofficial) visits freshman and sophomore year of high school,” she said. “That’s kind of when I was becoming a reality. But it’s such a young age to start looking at colleges. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do. I barely even knew what I wanted to eat that night at dinner. I was like, how am I going to college when I don’t even know? I was so young.”
In time, she grew more comfortable with the process. She found herself especially drawn to Baylor, and committed at the end of her sophomore year.
She never regretted the decision from a purely college standpoint. But the volleyball journey wasn’t easy. She spent each of her first three years at Baylor as a backup to another strong setter in Amy Rosenbaum.
She also reeled a bit from the shock of losing Jim Barnes as a coach, as Baylor fired Barnes following the 2014 season. With any coaching change, there is always a fear of the unknown, Reed said.
Reed said that the players realized right away that McGuyre knew plenty about the game of volleyball. As the months passed, they learned that his passions ran deeper.
“He cares about us as a person and outside of just volleyball,” Reed said. “I think that’s when we bought in to what he has to say and wanted to play for him.”
Reed is on pace to graduate with a marketing degree next May. She doesn’t have a job lined up yet, but her vision is to work her way into the sports marketing or management fields, perhaps with a professional team.
But, at long last, her time on the court has arrived. She plans to soak up every second of Baylor’s spot in the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday with a first-round match in Los Angeles against the University of San Diego.
“I feel like I’ve had a weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s not a stress,” Reed said. “Some years coming to volleyball were hard. I’ve never had the feeling of showing up and knowing that we were a really good team, having that assurance and that good feeling about us. It’s different playing with this freedom.”