Mackenzie Morris’ volleyball journey yields constant greatness

Mackenzie Morris, then-sophomore in business administration, dives to bump the ball back to her team (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

In all of Kansas State volleyball history, nobody has reached 1,000 career digs faster than junior defensive specialist Mackenzie Morris. 

“Someone told me in the lead-up to the game that I was approaching the milestone,” Morris said. “I had no clue I was coming near that because I don’t really think of achieving milestones when I’m setting goals for myself.”

Ultimately, on Sept. 24 against in-state rival Kansas, Morris recorded the historical 1,000th career dig.

“It was a pretty surreal moment,” Morris said. “I got to celebrate a little bit with my teammates and then with my family, who I was grateful to have come to town to watch.”

Morris’ playing career began at age 10 in Dallas, her hometown. She played on a number of club teams and went on to play for Ursuline Academy in high school where she was named the 2018 6A District 2 Defensive Player of the Year. 

That same year, she and her club team, Excel, made it to the 2018 USAV Junior National Championship and placed third in the tournament. Morris’ stellar play led to her selection in the all-tournament team.

“It was super fun,” Morris said. “I think the best part for me was meeting girls at different ages and getting to interact with them.”

Following her junior high school season, Morris added two more awards to her mantle, being named first team All-State and first team All-District. 

By then, she also made a decision on where she was going to college. After starting the recruiting process in her freshman year of high school, K-State contacted Morris in the summer of 2018 after her sophomore year.

She traveled to Manhattan for a summer camp where she met with several members of the coaching staff, including head coach Susie Fritz.

“I really loved everyone I met, as well as the campus,” Morris said. “It just felt like a fit for me, so I committed just prior to my junior year of high school.”

When she arrived at K-State in the fall of 2020, many things had changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the season was still played, there were significant changes.

“It was a long season,” Morris said. “We had to play a lot of doubleheaders which meant we were away from home for like three to four days. It was definitely tough on the school schedule. It can be such a commitment, and can take a lot out of you physically, mentally and emotionally, but it’s worth it.”

Even with the COVID-19 challenges, balancing school, work and a hectic game schedule, Morris still excelled in her freshman season, playing every set and leading the team in digs with 342. 

In her sophomore season, Morris broke her past season’s record, upping her digs from 342 to 424 and placing her as team-leader for the second straight season. She also recorded 20 or more digs six times, and had 11 straight games of double-digit digs between September and October. Morris’ presence helped her to be named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week twice.

The team improved in her sophomore year, jumping from 11 wins to 15. They also qualified for the 2021 NCAA Volleyball Tournament. 

While they lost in the first round to a talented Florida State squad, Morris says the experience was important for the team.

“We learned that we definitely want to get back to playing in that situation, but also be training for moments like that every single practice,” Morris said. “We don’t just want to get to the tournament. We want to get there and win.”

After college, Morris hopes to go into accounting, as she is majoring in accounting and finance. For now, her focus is on what she loves, which is volleyball and her teammates.

“Just being able to represent the school is such an honor,” Morris said. “We have such an amazing support system here through athletics, as well as my teammates, and I’m super grateful for that.”