The last time Montana Moore and Heidi Morgan took the court together, the former was a Pisgah volleyball star and the latter was the team’s assistant coach. Moore is now entering her first year as the head coach across town at Tuscola High School.
Morgan, after several years away from volleyball, is also entering her first season as a volleyball head coach for Pisgah High School. The two will be reunited Thursday as the two schools face off in a pre-season scrimmage to kick off the abbreviated 2020 season. While it will be a season of firsts for everyone, Moore is excited to start her career off against the school where it all began for her.
“This is my first scrimmage coaching ever,” said Moore. “This is my first year coaching volleyball, and so that fact that my first game gets to be against my old head coach is really exciting. It’ll be fun to play against them. Obviously, I want to win but it will just be a really fun game in general, to be able to play them.”
Morgan is still effusive in her praise of Moore’s dogged playing style, and believes her Tuscola team will adopt the personality of its new coach.
“She was a hard worker,” Morgan said of Moore. “She went on to play at Catawba Valley, so she was a very dedicated player. I expect she’ll be the same as a coach. She was an excellent passer and hitter, as well. It will be neat to be able to coach against a player. That will be a first for me.”
Moore says she came into her new role with a “blind eye,” meaning that she did not read too much into the previous player positions, results or schemes of years’ past. Positions and playing style aside, leadership is irreplaceable. Moore will lean heavily on her returners to help bridge the gap between previous head coach Pam Bryant to the present.
“Grace Glance, she is our middle hitter and she is a senior. She is awesome,” said Moore. “She’s always got such a good attitude and put in so much effort for us, so I am definitely counting on her. Addison Wyatt, our setter, she is another one who played for Pam last year. She’s got such great leadership skills so I am excited to see her keep rising into this role of being a leader for the team. Delaney Buchanan, she’s another good one. She’s our right-side hitter, and I think after working with her we are going to try to run some new stuff with her this year, some new offensive plays. I’m just excited for those three to step up into leadership roles and really help out the team that way.”
Likewise, Morgan points to seniors McKenna Browning and Maggie McCracken as leaders she will count on, two players who are familiar to her from coaching softball.
“My two seniors, I can’t say enough about them,” Morgan said of Browning and McCracken. “I’ve coached these two young ladies since they were freshmen. I’m also the head softball coach, and they both play softball. Being able to coach them in a different atmosphere has been very rewarding. Seeing them in a different light, different uniform, but they are still the same workhorse kids I coach in the dirt. They are just on the court now.”
Morgan says she also has been impressed by the emergence of middles Alexis Gibson and Ashtyn Frady, as well as Emma Deaver, Maddie Stewart and Peyton Chappell.
Due to the decision by the Mountain Athletic Conference, of which Tuscola is a member, to only play conference matches, the two teams will not compete during the regular season. Despite the fact that the exhibition match won’t count toward the final record of either team, both coaches are excited for the opportunity to not only get into real competition and iron out schematics, but do it against a familiar foe.
“Being back on the court for the first time since March, I know that March was softball season, spring sports, but just being back out, being able to compete with our kids again, will be so important for our morale and the spirit of our kids,” Morgan said.
The pregame warmups might be surreal for Moore, looking across the court at her alma mater and former coach, but once the whistle blows and the competitive juices surge, normalcy will return.
“There is just so much talent on the team that I just think that we are going to have a really good season, and I’m just really looking forward to getting going with all that,” she said.