So Cal freshman making an impact at Michigan

December 13, 2012

Not only is Tiffany Morales a talented volleyball player, the Michigan freshman is quite the prognosticator too.

While in high school, Morales posted a profile on the NCSA scouting website touting her ability to help a college program win.

"When I enter your program, you can trust that my experience from indoor and beach championship matches, experience playing each position on the court, a decade of elite-level club volleyball, international experience, and 8 years on top school and club teams, will help your team win," she wrote. "Nothing is more important to me than the team. I will not let my teammates down. You can trust me to play and even lead as a freshman, so I desire to play for a D1 team where there's an opportunity to contribute early on."

In just her first year with the Wolverines as the starting libero, Morales has helped lead the unranked University of Michigan’s to the program's first appearance in the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Final Four. The Wolverines went on to lose to Texas in five sets, 25-11, 21-25, 23-25, 25-12, 15-11.

"I think she’s been huge [for us] on the court." Michigan head coach Mark Rosen said. "Very early on when she came to camp over the summer before she came to team practices we could see her natural passing ability and thought she was going to make a great impact there."

Rosen added, "she just has great ball control skills, her feel for the ball and passing ability is very consistent. She’s very natural with it. She was coming from Club Long Beach Mizuno with very good trainers with defense and ball control. We liked just about everything about her…her calm demeanor, somebody who’s very steady and consistent. We saw that through the recruiting process but when she got here too."

In her freshman year, she has racked up a bevy of accolades: Big Ten All-Freshman team, Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Oct. 1), Tiger Invitational All Tournament Team (Aug. 24-25). She also racked up 547 digs for the year averaging almost 4 digs per set.

Morales won the starting spot during the preseason, besting junior libero Ally Sabol - another Southern California product from Marymount High School - who was the starting libero for the Wolverines. Rosen knew that they would both compete for the starting spot and early on it was pretty even competition with Sabol better on defense and Morales the better passer.

"[Morales] did a great job," Rosen said. "She really took advantage of that opportunity I think and she never gave anybody the opportunity to switch it.

"In the last month and a half, she’s really progressed defensively she’s been solid passing all year. But even in the last two weeks she has really gone to another level."

Morales led the team with 22 digs as Michigan took down the six-time NCAA National champs Stanford in four sets (20-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-20), to advance to the Final Four.

"It felt natural," Morales said. "We weren't playing out of our heads, we were just playing our game. Which is loose, silly, trusting each other and confident."

Success has been no stranger for Morales. She played volleyball for four years at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Calif. under head coach Tommy Chaffins where she was the captain for the 2010-11 team. She was also named Redondo Union High School Female Athlete of the Year (2009, '11, '12) and played four years of water polo. She was selected to the U.S. Youth Olympic Games roster and helped that team to a silver medal in 2010 in Singapore.

Outside of the gym, she also holds her "AA" CBVA Volleyball ranking on the beach and won three straight AAU Beach Volleyball Under-16 national championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010. In 2010 she was honored as the AAU Beach Volleyball Player of the Year.

"Tiffany was such a skilled and mature player as a freshman at RUHS, not intimidated by playing older and top competition. I have been so proud of her winning the libero position at Michigan," her high school coach Chaffins said. "Her performance vs. Stanford was awesome. Tiffany is such a great competitor and relishes playing top competition. She is so wise and adjusts to her opponents as well as anyone I have ever seen.

"Her strengths besides premium serve receiving and digging, was her communication tactically as we'll as emotionally connect with her teammates and to do whatever it takes to win. She also does this in such a positive manner, her energy and enthusiasm are just infectious."

"My first season has been unbelievable," Morales said. "We are 14 strong all the time which relates to how much we have improved throughout the season. My dream is to make winning the NCAA championship a reality. Also, to work hard and develop my skills to become and All-American."

Her coach added: "I truly think every year there are truly 8-10 great liberos out there that are changing the game. I think Tiffany’s progressing to that level. She’s a very good libero and she has the potential to be a great libero.

"I’m excited about that. I think she’s a player who’s going to have a huge future here because I think she’s going to make that kind of impact."