SPRINGFIELD - It would be an exaggeration to say that Springfield senior Morgan Hansen was a killer on the volleyball court this season.
However, on occasion she was indeed known to draw blood from her opponents.
Hansen's powerful, precise hitting helped her earn the most kills in the area by more than 100 over the next best total, which was one reason she was voted unanimously as the 2012 All-Journal Volleyball Player of the Year.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Springfield senior Morgan Hansen was named the 2012 All-Journal Volleyball Player of the Year.
None of her kills this season was more impressive than a hit she made during a match against New Ulm Cathedral.
"I think the most memorable thing with Morgan was when she hit the ball on the 10-foot line against New Ulm Cathedral and gave a girl a bloody nose," Springfield first-year head coach Tiffany Thedens said. "I think that was kind of the thing that most of my players remember about Morgan from the season... That poor girl had no time to react, and Morgan felt really super bad about it and apologized to the girl for it, but it was a great hit."
Hansen was a big reason that the Tigers put together a dominant 26-5 season. Springfield seemed in good shape to potentially advance as far as the state tournament, but for the second straight year the team saw its season end against BOLD in the Section 2A, North final.
"We felt we had a strong season," Hansen said. "Coming in with a new coach was hard, but we adapted very well. She turned out to be a really good coach, we learned a lot from her. We came back with about the same team as we had last year, we lost one player, but we went really far and we're happy with where we got."
Over the course of the season, Hansen produced 412 kills, 28 blocks, 275 digs and 55 ace serves.
Hansen became well known among her opponents for the sheer force that she was able to produce behind some of her hits, but is was the combination of her technique and her ability to read the other team's defense that made her a particularly deadly weapon on offense.
"Morgan is a very smart hitter," Thedens said. "She hits with a lot of power, which is very hard to defend. She was our go-to hitter - when we needed to side out, or if we needed to score some points, we would give the ball to her and she knew that she needed to put it away. You can tell that she has spent a lot of time working on her swing and her approach and putting it all together."
Hansen rounded out her arsenal by being among the most aggressive servers in the area and by playing with great hustle on defense, making diving saves on numerous occasions while playing in the back row.
"I loved playing defense," Hansen said. "I love passing the ball, it is something besides hitting that I would love to do if I could just play back row. I felt working with the libero, Kasey Kretsch, we just know where to go on defense and we just get it done."
Hansen's focus on producing serves that were well-placed and hit with a pace that made them difficult to return gave her the highest number of ace serves in the area.
"She always served for an ace, which was excellent," Thedens said. "A lot of girls will just serve to get the ball over, which is good, too, depending on the match, and Morgan was able to do that when it was necessary. I knew when she stepped back to the line she was going to serve aggressively and try to get as many ace points as she could for her team."
Although Hansen was the go-to player on offense for the team, she benefitted greatly from playing in a lineup with a wealth of talent, including three fellow All-Journal players - all-rounder Tiffany Schwanke, setter Shelby Schultz and libero Kasey Kretsch.
"Our team in general has helped me a lot," Hansen said. "They've pushed me because they know I have the ability to be really good... They know that I'm a big part of the offense and basically do what I can do and hit the ball hard and just kind of make a play out of it, just be smart and not always go up with the intent of wanting to kill it, just be smart and place it, basically."
Since Hansen, Schwanke, Schultz and Kretsch were all seniors this season, the level of chemistry they shared on the court was unparalleled.
"We've known each other and played many sports together throughout the years, so we've gotten along really well - it helps when teams get along," Hansen said. "We just like playing together and we know each other well enough - we know each other's weaknesses and strong suits, so we help each other with anything that's struggling, and we get better as a team."
The contributions of Hansen and the Tigers' other five seniors (rounded out by Kaitlyn Macht and Jordan Salonek) will be sorely missed by the team next season.
"They're going to be big shoes to fill now that they are moving on with their careers," Thedens said. "You can definitely tell that they put in a lot of time outside of this season as well as in the season. They did a great job of helping out underclassmen whenever they could, and they're going to be missed."
Hansen's biggest individual goal during the season was to pass the 1,000 kill milestone for her career, which she easily surpassed by finishing her career with 1,227 kills.
"I've been on varsity since ninth grade, and volleyball is my favorite sport, I loved playing it," Hansen said. "It was just a personal goal that I had, and I knew that I could accomplish with the help of my teammates. They helped me and I was able to accomplish it this year."
Although Hansen is currently undecided about whether she will continue her volleyball career at the college level, she knows for sure that the sport will remain a big part of her life.
"I am going to coach JO volleyball this coming winter and spring," Hansen said. "One day I hope to coach volleyball - I love playing it, I love watching it, so I don't want this to be my last season."