Volleyball was Kyle Pitman’s secondary sport, but it was hard to tell with his effort and influence on the court.
The Desert Vista setter/outside hitter was the heart and soul for the Thunder as it earned the top seed in the postseason and advanced to the Division I state semifinals.
While he is headed to Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., on a basketball scholarship, Pitman could have gone the volleyball route if he chose to as his first team All-Tribune selection would suggest.
“He’s a great leader and tremendous athlete,” Thunder coach Ryan Tolman said. “Kyle was the catalyst for everything we did on the court.”
While volleyball was secondary for Pitman it almost didn’t happen at all for Ryan Morrison, as his fist day was also nearly his last.
After some prodding from his older brother, Kevin, Ryan decided to try out for the freshmen team at Highland.
He went out that first day with no clue what to do, played like it, and gave up.
“I was a stupid freshman who didn’t have any confidence in myself,” Morrison said. “I thought that I sucked — which I did. I didn’t know any of the movements or anything. I decided I didn’t want to do this anymore.”
The next year Morrison went out for the soccer team, and if he hadn’t been cut, volleyball likely would have been forever in the rearview mirror. Instead, he found himself with some free time, and with Kevin in his ear once again, gave volleyball one more shot.
This time, he showed enough ability to be put on varsity, and from there he made furious gains, eventually turning into the force which gave teams headaches this season.
Morrison recently finished his senior season with a state-high 387 kills, 102 blocks, and 46 aces for the state champion Hawks, going from volleyball dropout to Tribune Player of the Year in the span of four years.
“My brother talked to me, and I realized if I did this, there was coaching that would help me out,” Morrison said. “If I never listened to him I would have never been here. Once I made varsity everything went great. I started helping the team out and eventually evolved into a big gun.”
Highland was seen as one of the top two teams in the state alongside Mesa, and the two met in the state semifinals. The Jackrabbits won the first set, the Hawks the next two, and Mesa the fourth to set up a sprint to 15 points in the fifth and deciding game.
For Morrison, the team had spent too many hours practicing for precisely this moment to fall short.
“It was like, ‘I’m not losing this thing,’” he said.
Highland cruised to the victory, 15-10, but there was still one more big hurdle. The Hawks needed to win one more match to claim the title — and this one just happened to be in Gilbert’s gym against the defending champion Tigers, their fiercest rivals.
Even though Gilbert had won two of the three regular season match ups, Highland showed its mettle, capturing a 25-20, 25-20, 25-22 victory for the program’s third state championship and first since 2005.
Morrison is still mapping out his future, with junior college volleyball in California the most likely possibility at this juncture.
This might not be the end of the line for Morrison dominance at Highland, though. Little brother, Mason, has the makings of a future star, and this time it’s Ryan putting on the full-court press.
“He’s really athletic,” Morrison said. “He apparently just won the state championship in Pop Warner. I’ve been trying to talk to him about getting into volleyball and he’s been going to the Hawk camps. If he starts now he can be pretty good.”