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Morgan Hentz returns home for the holidays after helping team win NCAA volleyball championship

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

There’s no need to ask Morgan Hentz if she enjoyed her first semester as a college student. The teenager from Lakeside Park is still reveling in the excitement of playing on the Stanford University volleyball team that won the NCAA Division I national championship last Saturday.

“It’s all been pretty amazing, and it hasn’t fully hit me yet,” said Hentz, who is back home for the holidays. “I’m just extremely happy to be able to do this with teammates that I love so much.”


Morgan Hentz of Lakeside Park hoists the NCAA championship trophy during the Stanford volleyball team’s victory party.

The Notre Dame Academy graduate was one of four freshmen in the starting rotation for the Stanford team that defeated the University of Texas, 3-1, in the nationally televised championship match.

The Cardinal became the youngest team to ever win the major college volleyball championship. But Stanford coach John Dunning and senior Inky Ajanaku weren’t too surprised with the historic accomplishment.

“Our team consistently improved throughout the entire season, especially toward the end,” Hentz said. “We were on the rise and our coach said he believed that we could win it all. And Inky emphasized that we had to have confidence in ourselves because we definitely had the talent and skill to win.”

Stanford’s incoming freshmen were considered the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, but they exceeded a lot of people’s expectations by helping the California team win its first national title since 2004 and its seventh overall.

Hentz was the team’s libero, a defensive specialist who stays on the back row when other players rotate positions. In both the semifinal and championship matches, she made 27 defensive digs against opposing hitters. Her steady play is part of the reason Stanford held Texas to a .182 hitting percentage in the final match.

“I owe a lot of credit to the coaches for teaching me lots of new things,” she said. “I also think my teammates really challenged me and pushed me the entire year. In the finals, we wanted it so bad that you had to be totally focused on the game and not worry about other distractions.”

The semifinal and championship matches were played in Columbus, Ohio, so a lot of Hentz’s family members, friends and former teammates were in the stands cheering for Stanford, the only final four team from California. They watched her become the second Northern Kentucky high school volleyball player and the first Northern Kentucky Volleyball Club member to play on an NCAA championship team.

Hentz will be spending three weeks at home before she returns to Stanford for the spring semester. She plans to play on the Cardinal women’s beach volleyball team that will begin its season on March 4.

“I’ve only really played indoor my entire life, but from what I’ve heard it’s a different style of game and there’s different rules as well,” she said of beach volleyball that’s now an NCAA sanctioned sport. “I’ll have some learning to do, for sure.”

Several of her teammates on the national champion team will also be playing beach volleyball this spring. She’s definitely looking forward to spending another season with them.

“I love it there,” Hentz said of Stanford. “A lot of that has to do with the team. They make me feel really comfortable and I love playing with them.”

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