A love of the game
Morgan Thatcher’s journey to the top of UNH volleyball
If Morgan Thatcher could have it her way, she would play volleyball forever.
"I don't want to ever stop playing volleyball, ever," Thatcher said. "If I ever have to stop playing, I want to go into coaching at whatever level possible."
The 6-foot-2-inch junior from Brockton, Mass. has been surrounded by volleyball her entire life. Two of Thatcher's aunts played volleyball in college, influencing her to start playing volleyball in seventh grade. Only a few years later, University of New Hampshire volleyball head coach Jill Hirschinger met Thatcher for the first time.
"We first saw Morgan when she was 14 years old at a Massachusetts recruiting combine," Hirschinger said. "She tried everything that the big kids were doing. It was funny because you could see potential in her at such a young age."
Thatcher's high school coach, Jack Olson, saw the same potential, putting her on the varsity team.
"Freshman year, I made varsity and I was petrified," Thatcher said. "I didn't know what to do, how to play the game really. I learned more as I went on, but it finer points of the game."
Despite her raw ability, Thatcher quickly developed into a special player for Brockton, becoming a three-time captain, being named first team All-American and winning the Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year award in 2009.
"Sophomore year, I took a leadership role on our team after all our seniors graduated," Thatcher said. "I started learning the game and got a lot better knowing this was something I wanted to do."
Despite her accomplishments, Thatcher almost did not end up attending to UNH.
"I thought she was going to be play basketball in college, so we didn't really pay too much attention to her in high school," Hirschinger said. "It wasn't until her senior year, when she really started to blossom, that we really started taking a closer look."
The closer look led to a visit to UNH by Thatcher and her family.
"UNH was my second visit and I fell in love with it," Thatcher said. "I loved the coaches, the players, the area. I didn't take any more visits because I knew it was where I wanted to be."
When she arrived at UNH, Thatcher knew, despite her successful high school career, she had to improve.
"I was behind when I first came in," Thatcher said. "Some of these girls came from places where they practiced five times a week. My school only practiced once a week, so I was behind from the start."
"She was raw at first, even more behind than the other freshmen," Hirschinger said. "But she practiced hard and continues to practice hard. She gets better everyday."
Coaches and teammates cite Thatcher's aggressive and competitive nature on the court as the biggest reason she has gotten better.
"When she gets mad, she gets aggressive," Hirschinger said. "I want to say controlled mad. Her game elevates. She does, at times, get too emotional, over-critical. She'll make an error or two and then lose that aggressiveness."
Thatcher's teammate, Destiny Tolliver, recalls how that competitiveness has been there since day one, and is a big part of their friendship.
"We both came in, and being the same year and being the same person, huge lefties, we competed for the same spot," Tolliver said. "A lot of competitiveness between us. I ended up playing a different spot. We still compete, but it's not as intense and we always keep it on the court."
Thatcher believes that she has gotten better at controlling her on court emotions.
"My freshman year, I let my emotions show on the court and I could get real high and low," Thatcher said. "It definitely got bad at times, affecting my game. I still have it now, and I'm glad, but I'm a lot better at controlling it than I was."
While Thatcher appears to be a brutal presence on the court, but is also a very approachable, talkative person.
"I am a real 'talk-about-it' person," Thatcher said. "I love talking about it. You can't ignore the pink elephant in the room, so let's talk about it. My freshman teammates are really good about that, because they'll come talk to me about it. That makes me feel really good and that I'm doing the right thing."
Hirschinger believes Thatcher's talkative nature also aids in her thirst to get better.
"Morgan's always up here, talks to the coaches a lot," Hirschinger said. "She's very open to us, very fun to be around, and she's always looking to learn more."
Thatcher is one of the three captains on the team and proud to continue the leadership she showed in high school.
"I feel I've matured and gotten better," Thatcher said. "I love playing and being a captain is a great thing because I can show leadership, even if I have the title or not. I love leading the younger kids."
Even with Thatcher's MVP-caliber season, the multiple player of the week awards, she is all about her team and all about winning.
"I'm happy to win all these awards, but I know I wouldn't have any of them without my teammates. All that matters is the win."
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