Girls volleyball: Huntley's Jones named Fox All-Area Captain
There are athletes who lead their teams vocally, and there are athletes who prefer to lead with a more calming effect.
Put Huntley's Morgan Jones in the latter group.
“I would say that I grew both mentally and physically this year,” Jones said. “Mentally, being a quiet leader can actually take more energy than being a super vocal one. I think I tend to carry the emotions or worry of my teammates. I learned to channel that — never get too high or too low. I think that's super important.”
To Huntley girls volleyball coach Karen Naymola, having a player with Jones' calm demeanor was invaluable.
“On the court, she has such a calm presence and is always composed,” Naymola said. “This was great for our younger players to see this and learn from her. We play in a tough conference, tough tournaments and having that sereneness about her definitely helps everyone stay composed. She is also a humble leader. She's the type of kid who puts in the extra time, extra effort and not one person would ever know. She does her own jump training after practices, lifting. She puts the work in to be as good as she is, but never once complains or even talks about that stuff. She is extremely humble. There were games I would have to say to her, ‘Morgan you got 18 kills that match.' And she was just like ‘Oh I did?' ”
Those qualities, and her inspired play that led the Red Raiders to a 31-7 season and another Fox Valley Conference championship, have led to Jones' selection as the Captain of the Daily Herald's 2023 Fox Valley All-Area Girls Volleyball Team.
“This year everyone expected us to have a big drop off after graduating nine seniors from last year's team,” said Jones, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter who is committed to play at Missouri next year.
“However my teammates and I were very confident that we could mirror last year's performance if we bonded and put the work in. It's a real testament to coach Naymola and how she knew to use our talents the way she did. Winning 31 games is proof of the hard work we put in. I am really proud of all of us. Individually, I knew that I needed to lead the team as an all around player, both offensively and defensively. I honestly never thought of my individual accomplishments. I've always believed that if you give everything you've got as a leader, that stuff takes care of itself.”
The numbers bear out Jones' performance this season. She had 301 kills, 57 aces, 28 solo blocks, and 152 digs.
“Defensively she improved so much,” Naymola said. “ She gained so much confidence in the back row and became very consistent for us defensively and on serve receive. She was a huge part of this team's success; we relied on her a lot this season. She is someone who consistently can put the ball down for us and she is always swinging even when the game is on the line. I love the grit and competitiveness she brought to the team.”
The daughter of Tony and Andrea Jones, Morgan said hard work paid off for her this season.
“I know my vertical went higher,” she said. “I always do a lot of extra work and that paid off. I also have worked really hard to improve my blocking and defense.
“Honestly I believe I can always improve my all-around game. My vertical I want at 10- 5 before I leave (Huntley). That will help me hit over the block, and also block the powerful SEC hitters. Serve receive-I think everyone can work on. The college game is so much faster. I also will work on my overall conditioning so I am jumping the same way the fifth set, as the first set.”
Naymola appreciated the way Jones carried herself off the court.
“She is genuinely such a nice kid and teammate,” Naymola said. “The younger athletes definitely looked up to her, and she made them so comfortable. She probably doesn't remember this but it was after practice and I really don't remember exactly what she did to help the younger kids (may have just been driving them to a pasta party) But she said, ‘I remember what it was like being the young one on teams, and I'll help them out.' She is just kind, considerate, and a good person. We need more Morgan Joneses in the world.
“I am so excited to follow her college career. I know she's going to be successful and such a huge asset to Mizzou. She's also an athlete that I feel is only going to get better. She still has a huge ceiling and she is one of the best. The sky's the limit for this kid.”
Jones is appreciative of those who have helped her to become the player and person she is.
“My parents are the best,” she said “They obviously have had to take the time, spend, the money ... but most importantly make sure I always know that I am a lot more than ‘just' a volleyball player. My Dad really instilled a lot of confidence in me, and would give great advice. He knows what this is like because he played basketball at Purdue. My Mom has been the one who really works with me on my mental approach and making sure I'm OK as her daughter — not as a volleyball player. Coach Chrissy Pfaff was my first coach — she made me fall in love with this game. I love her for that. Coach Naymola — she has been the most amazing coach the last two years. I think she saw all of this in me before I did. She means the world to me.”
As she prepares for college life, she does so realistically.
“I know that playing as a freshman doesn't happen a lot, but that is a goal, she said. “I'd like to touch the court. I have a lot of goals for the rest of my life — so having solid grades is also a goal. They say you don't know what you don't know, so the other goal is to just be prepared and ready no matter what happens.
“I will be studying Psychology. My Mom studied clinical psychology, and it's kind of funny how I ended up having such an interest. I think seeing why people do and say, as well as act the way they do, is really cool. It's just super interesting, but also gives you insight on things. It helps you understand.”
Like everyone now understands what a special volleyball player Morgan Jones is.