From This Side of the Net with Morgan Ballard

From a young age, I always knew I would end up playing a sport of some kind. I was always the competitive and athletic girl growing up, the one who would try to outrun all of the guys in my class at recess and win every spelling bee or arm wrestling contest that I could. Yep, I was that girl! I do get my competitiveness and athletic ability honest of course; my mom used to run track and cross country, and my dad was a pretty amazing baseball player back in the day. My dad always thought I would follow in his steps and grow up to be a star softball player, but God had other plans for me.

Up until I was 12 years old, I had gone through little experience in swimming, playing tennis, volleyball, softball, etc. I didn’t really try to focus on one sport until the spring of my 6th grade year. That year, I had a friend ask me to start coming to volleyball workouts and camps to prepare for tryouts at the middle school that summer. I had played a little bit of volleyball when I was younger for a recreational team at North Asheville Christian Academy, which doubled as my church and school. But I had never imagined playing volleyball beyond that. When I decided to join my friend at volleyball workouts that spring, I didn’t know what to expect and thought that it would just be a fun time-passer. But as soon as I stepped on that court, even at 12 years old, I knew that this was the start of the journey that God had planned for my life. Within the next year of playing, I knew that this is what I wanted to be doing for years to come, and developed the biggest dream of playing volleyball in college. Over the past 6 years I can honestly say I have worked the hardest I possibly could, on the court and in the classroom, to become the best student-athlete I could possibly be. And I do have to say, it has paid off tremendously.

Until last year, I played for a wonderful club team called Biltmore Volleyball Academy. I was with them from the very first year I started playing club during middle school. They trained me for a few years, and we all became such a close family there. But I realized that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and play with and against teams of a higher caliber if I wanted to become a better player myself and prepare for college. So when my best friend Courtney Koehler (who had switched to the Upward Stars family from Biltmore the year before) invited me to come down to visit Upward and workout with them for a few weeks, I couldn’t refuse. The moment I stepped onto the court for the first time with all of the Upward players, I knew this is where I wanted to be for my last 2 years of high school. The coaches were undoubtedly some of the best I ever had the chance of meeting, all of the girls were so talented and welcomed me without hesitation, and I could feel the presence of God all around me. Last year, the year I decided to join the Upward family, our 17’s team went on to win the national championship at AAU’s in Orlando, Florida. In the past year, I have grown into more of the woman and volleyball player I want to be, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

After winning the national championship, and committing to play volleyball for Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, I started my high school season at North Buncombe High in good spirits. It was a pretty good season overall, but it sadly ended after making it to the 2nd round of playoffs. Going into this club season at Upward, I’m looking forward to coming together with all of my coaches and teammates, and using our God-given talents to play for Him. This year’s team and season will be one to be remembered, and trust me… we will be remembered!