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Morgan Volkart: Turning fear into potential

Morgan Volkart is captain of the volleyball team for the second year.

As a freshman on the Lehigh women's volleyball team, Morgan Volkart '06 watched the older girls play from the bench. Then a senior team member injured herself, and Volkart was asked to play instead. "I was nervous," she remembers. "I didn't think I was good enough to fill in for her."

More experienced players saw Volkart's fears ... and her potential. When she started the next game, they cheered loudly. "The whole team was rooting for me," Volkart says.

Their encouragement drove Volkart to perform her best and, for the next three weeks, she was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week. "I couldn't have done it without the team," she says.

Entering her second year as captain, Volkart looks forward to encouraging younger team members the same way she was supported.

This year's volleyball team just recruited six new players, to bring the total number of players to 16. Last year, with only 10 women playing, any injury could damage the team's ability to perform. Now, with the new recruits, Volkart believes that the team will compete better.

"I think we'll do great this year," Volkart says. "I've never been this excited for a new season."

Volkart spent the summer in Shanghai and China.

Her coach, Amanda Moran, believes Volkart will once again be a "major force" on the volleyball team. "Morgan is one of the hardest working players on our team," Moran says. "She is a wonderful young lady who has such sensitivity for her teammates and other students that she encounters."

If left up to her, Volkart may have never played volleyball. The summer before high school, she refused to play any sport, but her mother made her attend volleyball tryouts.

When Volkart's mother learned she had breast cancer, the single parent knew that her daughter needed a distraction from their troubles at home. She was right. While her mother underwent chemotherapy and radiation, Volkart's time was filled with volleyball, and she found a supportive group of friends on the team.

Almost eight years later, her mother's breast cancer is in remission, but Volkart still plays volleyball for the Lehigh women's team.

"I hated [volleyball], but ended up loving it," Volkart says.

Off the volleyball court, Volkart studies sociology/social psychology and Asian studies. This summer, she traveled to Shanghai, China, with 24 other students and three Lehigh professors as part of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). She spent two weeks in an intensive language course and four weeks teaching English to middle school students.

Volkart felt at home in the foreign environment and grew to love the children she spent time with. In return, the children adored her. They showed her their city, taught her Chinese, came to her office, and constantly wanted to be near her. Some of them joined the volleyball team Volkart coached just to be around her.

"The kids were respectful and eager to learn," Volkart says.

When she was not working, Volkart enjoyed touring Shanghai and visiting other cities in China, including Hanzhuo, Beijing, and Anji, Hong Kong. Every other day, Volkart and the IES students paid $1.30 to have their hair washed and their backs massaged by professionals, but their favorite activity was go-carting. Twice a week, they drove the "incredibly fast" cars along the twisted tracks without helmets. Afterwards they laughed over their spills while surveying their bumps and bruises.

When Volkart and the other Americans went out to eat, they were unable to read the menus. So the students walked around the restaurants asking for dishes they saw other customers eating. Later they found out that what looked like beef or chicken was rabbit, duck stomach, or even snakeskin.

Volkart hopes to teach English in China or teach Chinese in the U.S. after she graduates with her master's in education.

--Becky Straw

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Fall 2005

Posted on Monday, October 17, 2005

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