Standing just a shade above 5-foot-9, Red Bud High School volleyball player Morgan Cowell didn’t appear to be an intimidating presence during her four-year career as an outside hitter.
But as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving. Already a two-time Cahokia Conference performer and closing in on 1,000 kills entering her senior year, Cowell was determined to make her final season in a Musketeer uniform the best one yet.
“Before the season, we all met and came up with a checklist of things we wanted to accomplish this season,” Cowell said. “We wanted to win conference, we wanted to win the (Class 2A) regional again and we wanted to finish with an above .500 record. So, whenever we accomplished one of these or another one, we just checked it off the list. We had a very successful season.”
And it was the ultra-competitive Cowell who was the catalyst.
Cowell not only finished the year with 398 kills in 898 attempts (27.93 percent) but, showing her versatility, added a team-high 424 digs as she led Red Bud to the Cahokia Conference (Kaskaskia Division) championship, a 22-13-1 record and the Class 2A Sparta Regional championship.
Named as the Belleville News-Democrat Class 1A-2A Player of the Year, Cowell collected kill No. 1,000 on Sept. 6 at league rival Valmeyer and finished with 1,321 for her career.
Still undecided on where she will play collegiate volleyball in 2018, Cowell attended the American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom Program for unsigned seniors this past weekend in Kansas City. The program was held in conjuncture with the NCAA coaches conference and NCAA Division I Women’s Championship.
“I went last year and it was a great experience. I remember I was really nervous. But by the end of the first day, I was like, ‘I can do this,’” Cowell said. “I’ve had some communication with a few schools, but I really have no idea where I’m going to go. I just want to play. I have no problem with going away. I’ve gone a lot of places with my club team and I love to travel.”
No matter where the Musketeers senior plays collegiate volleyball, she will be remembered in Musketeers history. Despite finishing with an under .500 mark a season ago, Red Bud (15-19-3) rebounded to win a regional title. This season, playing with eight seniors, the Musketeers and Cowell developed into one of the top Class 2A teams in Southern Illinois.
While Cowell was one of the dominant players in the Cahokia Conference, she wasn’t alone in helping Red Bud enjoy its fine season. Seniors Makenzie Harbaugh had 806 assists, Jett Kennedy had 396 digs and Mackenzie Schweizer had 306 digs.
“We were a team and while I think I became a better player, the main reason was that everybody did was that everybody played a part in that,” Cowell said. “The difference from last year was that we had eight seniors on this team. We just have that special bond of having played together for so long. It helps.”
But while the Musketeers had one of their most experienced and talented teams this season, the offense went through their outside hitter — Cowell. Veteran coach Erin Legendre said what set Cowell apart from other players was a tremendous work ethic and desire to compete and win at a high level.
“First of all, Morgan is just a great kid. She’s very humble, down to earth and a tremendous teammate,” Legendre said. “But what a tremendous work ethic. She was working long before she got here ... in the sixth, seventh grade. It was fun to watch her come though the ranks. We knew at an early age that she was going to be special. By the second week of her freshman year she was a starter on the varsity (team). I don’t think she’s missed a set in four years.
“To show you her dedication, Morgan had a babysitting job during the summer and she would bring the child to workout when she was babysitting. There isn’t a lot of kids who would do that.”
While winning a Cahokia Conference title, 22 matches and a second regional championship were some highlights of Cowell’s senior season, perhaps the most memorable came against Valmeyer on the night she attained her 1,000th career kill.
“I’m a very competitive person. I always have been and I guess I get that from my dad who was an athlete in high school. To get it in a match where there was a player who got hit in the face twice on kills that night from the same player ... I’m not even sure when it (the 1,000th kill) happened. It felt good though,” Cowell said. “To be honest, I didn’t even know I was close. Nobody told me until it happened.”
Legendre knows Cowell can and will play college volleyball at a high level next season.
“With that work ethic and talent. There is no doubt,” Legendre said. “We’ve had NCAA Division I coaches come in and work our (summer) camps the last three years and they’ve all said Morgan can play.”
2017 Belleville News-Democrat
Class 1A-2A All-Area Volleyball Team
Player of the Year
Morgan Cowell, Red Bud. sr.
Coaches of the Year
Becky Musso, Wesclin
Libero: Emily Schwarz, Metro East Lutheran, sr.
Guin Kohnz, Valmeyer, jr.
Julia Friederich, Wesclin, sr.
Ellie Wessel, Wesclin, sr.
Jessie Seidel, Valmeyer, soph.
Makenzie Harbaugh, Red Bud, sr.
Danika White, New Athens, soph.
Kayla Huels, Gibault, soph.
Brooklynn Smith, Carlyle, jr.
Regina Guehlstorf, Marquette, sr.
Madison Schoenfeld, Lebanon, sr.
Ellen Schulte, Metro East Lutheran, jr.
Libero: Carly Creel, Marquette, sr.
Kendra Goldschmidt, Valmeyer, jr.
Sophie Richards, Red Bud, sr.
Sara Andres, Valmeyer; Krista Bass, Lebanon; Taylor Bradley, Metro East Lutheran; Lexi Chambers, Gibault; Alyssa Cowell, Red Bud; Haley Davitz, Gibault; Molly Diekemper, Carlyle; Cameron Foster, Dupo; Emily Gebke, Carlyle; Ande Grohmann, Gibault; Kayla Guetersloh, Carlyle,Paige Hand, Marissa; Lauren Heinz, Marquette; Brooke Jansen, New Athens; Taylor Junge, New Athens; Jett Kennedy, Red Bud; Peyton Kline, Marquette; Brittany Ogden, Lebanon; Lindsey Poirot, New Athens; Sam Seidel, Valmeyer; Abigail Reinneck, Lebanon; Emily Reinneck, Lebanon; Hallie Sronce Carlyle; Emily Takacs, Wesclin; Brooklyn Taylor, Marquette; Kaitlin Trame, Wesclin; Mariah Vahlkamp, Carlyle; Sidney Vetter, Metro East Lutheran; Katie Weber, Metro East Lutheran; Jacey Weis, Marissa; Ashlyn Wightman, Gibault; Brooke Wilson, Dupo