Millisa Morrow played three different positions in her four years on Arroyo Grande High’s girls volleyball team but none better than her role this year as left outside hitter.
The 6-foot senior developed a reputation for booming shots that rained down upon opponents.
One of her shots in a scrimmage that slammed off a fellow teammate’s head even resulted in a concussion test — an incident that dazed the teammate who turned out to be OK.
This year, Morrow recorded 387 kills, nearly 100 more than the second best player in the PAC 7, Sophia Guerrier of Atascadero, who had 294.
And she had 90 aces, more than 50 more than the PAC 7’s next best server, San Luis Obispo’s Maggie Eppright, last season's County Player of the Year.
After earning PAC 7 MVP honors, Morrow has been named The Tribune’s San Luis Obispo County Player of the Year.
“Everything fell into place this year for Millisa,” Arroyo Grande coach Ernie Santa Cruz said. “Her leadership, her hard work, it all paid off. She got better and better in her four years here. She did whatever we asked her to do.”
The power Morrow showed was hard to stop for opposing coaches. San Luis Obispo coach Manny Carter called her the “best player in the county” after the teams’ second matchup of the season.
“It was really hard for us to game plan against her because she was good from anywhere on the court,” Carter said this past week. “She could hit from the back row, the front row, she was a good passer, and she can set because she played setter the year before. Her blocking was pretty good. We just couldn’t take her out of her system.”
After playing setter her junior season and logging more than 700 assists, Morrow moved to hitter to help give the Eagles a potent offense on the front line alongside Utah-bound Alyssa Koenig and 6-foot middle hitter Ashlyn Herlihy.
Morrow and the 6-2 Koenig formed a fearsome attacking team, accounting for 606 kills between them. Morrow also played in the back row this season.
“Millisa has a passion for the game, she loves to compete, and she didn’t allow any setbacks to get in the way,” Santa Cruz said. “Alyssa and Millisa really set a tone this season that carried over to the rest of the players. When they were on the court, they were there to work hard and focus.”
Arroyo Grande finished 25-7 and 12-0 in the PAC 7.
Morrow said a key aspect to the team’s success on the court was the players’ friendships off it.
“In the beginning, when we started playing together we realized, ‘Wow, we really like each other,’ ” Morrow said. “We did a lot of things together besides just play volleyball, like we had a sleepover at the end of the season. Because we bonded so well, it helped our team play well together.”
As a sophomore setter, Alaina Hogeboom stepped into a role that might have been intimidating since Morrow played it so well last season. The result was a season with 863 assists and a fifth-place ranking among all CIF-Southern Section players.
“During the season I’d tell her ‘This is where we want the ball’ with sets and try to help her,” Morrow said. “I think just being patient and letting her grow as a setter helped her and the team.”
Morrow’s drive comes from a family of competitors, going all the way back to her grandmother, Millie, for whom her unusually spelled name is derived.
Millie Morrow, who died before Millisa was born, attended all of her kids’ sports games and was a feisty spirit. Millisa Morrow has that same willpower, according to family members.
Millisa’s father, Doug Morrow, who graduated from Cal Poly in 1979, played football for the Mustangs. And sister Kaele, who graduated in 2009, was a key member of a powerhouse team that went 12-0 in league for three straight years.
“I always watched my sister play in high school and thought I want to do that,” Millisa Morrow said. “She helped me train a lot and pushed me to get better and better. She was a huge inspiration to me.”
A similar competitive drive emerged in practices at times when Santa Cruz would give Morrow advice on how to position herself or how to use proper technique, but Santa Cruz noted differences between the sisters.
“You’d tell Kaele to do something and she’d say ‘OK, coach,” but with Millisa she’d say ‘How about trying it this way,' Santa Cruz said. “But it has to be my way.”
Despite occasional differences of opinion, the two got along tremendously, and Morrow calls Santa Cruz, who has coached the team for 20 years, the “best coach I’ve ever had.”
“It’s super rare that he ever gets mad,” Morrow said. “You just know he’s there. He has this presence and that tells you what you should be doing.”
As she grew older and played club volleyball in the spring, coaches around the Central Coast praised Morrow’s unique hitting power.
“She was who were looking out for,” Templeton coach Jodi Kelly said. “We were well aware of her power.”
But it was an incident in practice that demonstrated her swing strength in a painful way to a teammate. During a scrimmage, teammate Kacee Fox wasn’t quite ready for a shot that Morrow hit and the ball went through her hands, hitting her face.
“She was dazed and confused for the rest of practice, so she ended up getting tested (for a concussion),” Morrow said. “It was kind of scary at first, but once we knew she was OK, it was pretty funny. We all made fun of her for it.”
Morrow is now moving on to her club season on the 805 Elite team for Central Coast volleyball players. Through the team, she’ll have the opportunity to show off her skills against top players in national tournaments and possibly earn a college scholarship.
Already she’s speaking with San Francisco State and Chico and plans to visit those campuses on recruiting trips. But she doesn’t have an official scholarship offer yet.
“Millisa is definitely an athlete,” said Brock Hutchins, her club coach. “Especially in this last year, she’s learned to tailor her athleticism to improve her volleyball game. I’m very, very proud of her and how well her hard work has paid off.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Millisa Morrow, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
Alyssa Koenig – Arroyo Grande, Sr.
Alaina Hogeboom – Arroyo Grande, Soph.
Sophia Guerrier — Atascadero, Sr.
Maggie Eppright – San Luis Obispo, Sr
Ariel Becker – San Luis Obispo, Sr.
Heather Fields — Templeton, Sr.
Carly Roth – Templeton, Sr.
Jade Fuller – Arroyo Grande, Sr.
Kendall Featherstone – Atascadero, Jr.
Paige Waymire — Nipomo, Sr.
Sydney Roth – Templeton, Sr.
Erin Good – San Luis Obispo, Sr.
Grace Ready – Mission Prep, Sr.
Cristina Ozzimo – Nipomo, Sr.
Arroyo Grande – Ashlyn Herlihy Fr,; Danielle Mullery, Sr.
Atascadero –Mary Kate Evans, Sr.
Coastal Christian – Leslie Henry, Sr., JoAnn Lindstaedt Sr.
Coast Union – Karla Soto, Sr.
Mission Prep – Natalie Brescia, Sr., Jessa Culver, Sr.
Morro Bay – Carli Watt, Sr., Sierra Emrick, Soph.
Nipomo – Taylor Nevitt, Jr., Sarah Stahl, Sr.
Paso Robles – Molly Donovan, Sr.
San Luis Obispo – Molly Maguire, Jr., Anna Pedersen, Jr., Riatta Marinelly, Sr.
Shandon — Kelsey McRoy, Soph., Aliyah Morrison, Soph.
Templeton – Lindsey Wyatt, Sr., Autumn Russell, Jr., Mari Stewart, Jr.