Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is volleyball, softball, and basketball player Amari Morales from Clint High School in Texas.
Amari is a junior with three letters in volleyball and softball and two in basketball. She’s the captain of her club volleyball team and of her high school volleyball and softball teams and was a two-year All Conference team selection in volleyball. This past season, with an average seven assists per set, Amari helped lead her high school team to their first playoff win in 23 years. Her passion and drive on the court are matched by her dedication in the classroom. She maintains a 4.0 GPA and, in 2019, she received an AAU Academic All-American award.
Outside of school, Amari also shows up for those around her. Over Thanksgiving, she helped make and hand out over 300 meals to help feed those in need in her community. Amari was nominated by Power Sports Academy Athletic Director Robert Morales Jr. As one of her coaches, and her dad, Robert says the most impactful thing about Amari, and what truly sets her apart, is her unwavering commitment to her teammates.
We asked Amari what being a student-athlete means to her. Here’s what she had to say:
What is your definition of a successful student-athlete?
“I strongly believe that succeeding as a student-athlete not only requires unbreakable character, high moral standards, and incomparable work ethic, but also the ability to maintain a healthy balance between athletics and education.”
What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far?
“The moment that stands out to me is receiving an Academic All-American award for the 2019 AAU Nationals in Orlando. It made me realize that the athletic community holds success in the classroom as highly as it holds performance on the court. I also came to see that I could never have accomplished this without my “tough-love” support system in my corner. Their persistent presence has pushed me to never accept mediocrity in anything I do.”
Who is your role model in athletics?
“From a very young age, I looked up to my aunt and my parents as my athletic role models. They shared their love of the sport with me and showed me that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. My drive and perseverance are derived from the passion they embedded in me.”
What do you love most about competing?
“Though my teammates and coaches change from season to season, my answer to this question will always remain the same: The thing I love most about competing is working as one with my team in order to accomplish a mutual goal. My teammates are like family and the connection we make through literal blood, sweat and tears makes being beside them on the court the best part about competing.”
What are some of the goals you’d like to achieve after high school?
“After high school, I would love to continue my education while playing the sport I love at the collegiate level. I plan to major in biology to pursue a career as a scientist. Nothing would make me happier than to find a place where I can make both of my goals a reality.”
Practice is where champions are molded, are built. If you want to beat the best volleyball teams, you have to practice better than them. Coach Sidnee Snow, the director for AAU Nationals down in Orlando, FL, has provided six drills that will work on a number of skills and situations to elevate your game on the court. Check them out below and begin implementing them in your practices tomorrow.
It can be challenging to find everything you need for the volleyball season with dozens of different shoes, knee pads, ankle braces, and other gear to choose from. That’s why Eastbay is here to help you gear up with our guide for the top volleyball shoes, apparel, and equipment.
When you’re out on the floor, you want a shoe that you can trust to support you no matter what. The Nike React Hyperset is built to let you make big plays in big moments. It starts with Flywire technology that gives you a supportive fit and allows you to fly around the court with ease. Underneath your foot sits React foam that provides responsive cushioning to keep you energized from the first to the last set. Combine the cushioning with the NIKESKIN overlay that increases durability around the toe and suddenly you have a shoe that’s built to last while keeping you in the game longer. Other important features include a lateral strap that offers more stability for those side-to-side movements and a rubber sole for excellent traction in all directions.
When looking for the best pair of volleyball shoes, it’s nice to have options for both style and color. The adidas Crazyflight is one of the few volleyball shoes that’s available in both a mid and low style. Both styles feature the latest in adidas shoe technology with Boost cushioning in the midsole to bolster support. The mesh upper was molded with TPU zones to keep you light on your feet while reducing heat build-up within the shoe. Along the back of the shoe, you can find a molded, S-shaped heel counter that enhances the stability of the shoe.
When designing a volleyball shoe, every component has to work together. The outsole, midsole, and upper all have to be in sync to create a smooth, comfortable performance shoe. In the Sky Elite, the TRUSSTIC system in the midfoot and the GEL technology in the heel work in tandem to control and stabilize twisting in the midfoot area while absorbing shock. The material in the midfoot region is made with FLUIDRIDE tech which consists of lightweight fibers that continually bounce back into place after each step creating adaptive cushioning underfoot. There’s even more comfort in the form of a mesh insole and a sock liner that helps limit moisture in the shoe. The sockliner can also be removed if you have custom orthotics that you prefer to play in.
When you’re on the volleyball court, you want to be cool and comfortable while also ready to explode into action at a moment’s notice. The Nike Zoom HyperAce 2 is designed to do both. These shoes are built with small, breathable holes to keep your feet cool and dry throughout the match. To keep you stable and comfortable, a TPU heel counter, in conjunction with a heel cage, stabilizes your foot in the shoe. A foam midsole combined with Nike Zoom Air delivers the signature responsiveness and explosion that keeps you ready to dive for any balls and rise up for any kills. Combine that with the rubber tread and you will be able to push off with maximum power every time.
The Under Armour Highlight Ace 2.0 is one of the more technologically advanced shoes available. A 4D foam sockliner conforms to the contours of your feet, providing ideal comfort while also hugging your foot to prevent any internal slipping and sliding. A 3D rubber toe cap offers durability from wear and tear as well as protection for your toes. There are internal webbing loops with the purpose of enhanced fit and support to push off from unconventional angles in all directions. That way, no matter where you are on the court or how off balance you may be, you are never out of a play. In the midsole there’s a full-length Charged Cushioning system made to absorb all the stress and pressure put on your knees and feet and convert it into responsive comfort.
Being able to stand up to the demand and rigors of a tough club season is a hallmark of any good shoe. The Under Armour Block City 2.0 is one of the most durable shoes available thanks to the rubber toe cap and the coated mesh panels that line the midfoot and help keep you stable. To complement the forefoot, the midfoot is comprised of lightweight mesh and a toebox to make sure your foot is still able to breathe. The outsole has a herringbone traction pattern similar to the best basketball shoes, but there are also strategically placed diamond-shaped insets which improve the grip even more.
Eastbay also has you covered with a huge selection of the best equipment and apparel to help you feel your best on the court.
Ankle sprains are a problem for every athlete, and volleyball players can be at an especially high risk. All it takes is coming down off-balance after a spike or a block and you can spend the next several weeks watching games in a walking boot from the bench. Thankfully, ankle braces provide support to help protect against sprains. The ASO Ankle Stabilizer offers a secure fit thanks to stabilizing straps that form a figure eight around your ankle, and it’s bilateral, meaning it can be worn on either ankle. Another option is the McDavid ankle brace which has a built-in anatomical arch that adds a layer of support in addition to the elastic top strap that helps you customize the fit. If you prefer something different there is also the Mizuno DXS2 brace where support and stability come from three main parts: anchored wrap, under heel, and V-shaped belts.
Knee pads are an essential part of every volleyball player’s kit. Getting floor burn is a bottom 10 experience, but thankfully we have several great options to save your knees. The Nike Essential Kneepads are built with shock-absorbing foam and abrasion resistance to keep your knees protected, and the short style design allows for greater freedom of movement on the court. There is also the Under Armour Strive 2.0 which features a heat liner for increased breathability and dual-density padding which helps keep bulk down while maintaining excellent protection. Mizuno offers the LR6 kneepad which provides complete patella, lateral, and medial protection. In addition, the VS-1 padding is strategically placed to give you the confidence to go after every ball.
Of course, compression shorts play a huge role in a volleyball player’s comfort. A poorly made pair of compression shorts can rub you the wrong way and irritate your skin to the point of madness. Eastbay carries some of the top brands’ compression shorts including the Nike Pro 3” which features a lined gusset and ergonomic seams that allow for a greater range of motion while preventing annoying irritation. Under Armour also has a 3” compression short made from lightweight HeatGear fabric, allowing you to float like a butterfly and spike like a gorilla. It also has built-in, anti-odor technology which prevents the growth of microbes and keeps the shorts fresh. There is also the Mizuno Vortex Hybrid Shorts which have a lower rise and a wide waistband for impressive comfort and a lined, flatlock gusset to provide stability.
With all this gear and equipment, you’re going to need something to carry it in. Enter the Nike Hoops Elite Pro Backpack. It has been completely redesigned this year to give players easier access to their things. Instead of a traditional opening this year’s model features something more akin to opening a duffel bag. While you still carry it like a traditional backpack when you lay it flat you are able to fully open it to grab whatever you need. Ever had to grab something quick from the bottom of a full backpack? It is one of the more frustrating feelings as you have to unpack your bag just to grab a charger, and then you have to turn around and repack it. This backpack eliminates that annoyance. It does still have plenty of other traditional backpack features including a laptop sleeve, ventilated pocket for wet items, and space for an oversized water bottle. The bottom panel was crafted to resist abrasion so this backpack will last you for a while.
No matter what type of shoes, apparel, or equipment you need to power through the season, Eastbay has you covered. Check out eastbay.com for anything you need.
Finalist voting for the 90th annual AAU James E. Sullivan Award is open!
Each year, since 1930, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) gives out this award to the nation’s top amateur athlete. Named after its founder, James E. Sullivan, this award recognizes players who not only entertain us but inspire and motivate us.
Scroll down to learn more about each of this year’s finalists, click here to cast your vote, and stay tuned to find out who will win this prestigious award.
Track and Field, University of Florida
Holloway became the fifth Gator in history to be named SEC Male Athlete of the Year and the first Gator to sweep the USTFCCCA National Indoor and Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year awards. He also became the first man in history to sweep the NCAA Championship titles for 60 hurdles and 110 hurdles three years in a row. Holloway was the third leg for Florida’s NCAA title-winning and collegiate record-breaking 4×100 relay at NCAA Outdoors (37.97 seconds), and he anchored Florida’s 4×400 relay to a silver medal to set a school record time of 2:59.60 (split 43.75 seconds). Holloway scored 27.5 points at the NCAA Indoor Championships, the second-highest total in meet history; 28 points at SEC Indoor Championships, breaking the meet record of 22.5; and 14 points at SEC Outdoor Championships. He’s a 4x USTFCCCA Outdoor All-American, 4x USTFCCCA Indoor All-American, SEC Indoor Runner of the Year and USTFCCCA South Region Indoor and Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Women’s Lacrosse, University of Maryland
Winning her second national championship this past year, Taylor became the first goalie ever to win the prestigious Tewaaraton Award. In addition, Taylor was named the IWLCA National Player of the Year, the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, the University of Maryland Student-Athlete of the Year, the Big Ten Goalie of the Year for the fourth time in four years, and she won the Honda Award for Lacrosse. Taylor started 88 of 91 games over her four-year career, putting together an 84-4 record. She ended her Maryland career with a .512 save percentage and 740 saves, the second highest of any Maryland goalie. The senior won two National Championships, seven Conference Championships and never lost a game at home.
Women’s Volleyball, University of Wisconsin
Dana is the youngest member of the 2019 U.S. National Team that won the Volleyball Nations League. She’s been named three-time first-team All-American, 2019 Big Ten Player of the Year, 2019 AVCA Northeast Regional Player of the Year, three-time first-team All-Big Ten, and two-time Academic All-Big Ten. She aided the Badgers to three NCAA tournament appearances, including a national runner-up finish in 2019. She holds the UW career record in hitting percentage and ranks among the top Badger players in kills, kills per set, total blocks, blocks per set, points, and points per set. She played in 110 sets and led the team with 3.75 kills per set. She had a season high 22 kills vs. Marquette (September 5) and had a tied season high five digs vs. Penn State (October 2).
Women’s Swimming, University of California Berkeley
Last year, Weitzeil broke the American record in the 50-yard free twice, won four national titles at the 2019 NCAA Championships, and earned 2019 Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year honors. Not only did she win all three of her individual races at the Pac-12 Championship meet, but she also helped her Cal team win multiple relays. As a result, she was named the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet. At the NCAA Championships, she earned a national title in the 50 free and anchored three relays to national championships while helping the 200 medley relay to a runner-up finish. During the final race of the 200 medley relay on the third night of the meet, Weitzel hit the wall hard hyper-extending her elbow. The next day, with her arm heavily taped, she anchored the 400 free relay to a national title breaking the NCAA record in the event.
Football, Clemson University
Lawrence entered 2020 having completed 527 of his 804 career passes for 6,945 yards with 66 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 1,610 snaps in 30 career games (26 starts). His rushing numbers are just as impressive with 967 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns on 163 career carries. As a freshman in 2018, Lawrence started the final 11 games helping Clemson to go 15-0 and win 10 of those games by 20 points or more. Lawrence became the first true freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national title since 1985. Lawrence was a consensus freshman All-American honoree who earned a bevy of national and conference honors for both his athletic and academic success. Lawrence recorded a 25-game winning streak in his first 25 games as a starter, tied for the sixth-longest winning streak by a starting quarterback at any point of a career.
Gymnastics, University of California Los Angeles
Ross has had a historic career at UCLA. She has scored two perfect 10s on uneven bars and one on vault and leads UCLA with 34 individual titles out of a possible 45. Ross has totaled four NCAA individual championships and one team championship. She holds the NCAA career record for perfect 10s on uneven bars with 11 and counting. Ross is the first female gymnast in history to win NCAA, World and Olympic gold. She’s a two-time defending Pac-12 all-around champion and has a total of six Pac-12 individual titles. Ross currently ranks first in the nation on uneven bars, second on balance beam, third in the all-around, fourth on floor exercise, and 11th on vault. The 19-time All-American is a standout off the floor as well, receiving Pac-12 All-Academic honors twice in her career while studying Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology.
Men’s Wrestling, University of Iowa
Two-time NCAA Wrestling Champion, Lee, claimed the 2019 US Senior National Championship, qualifying for the US Olympic Trials. Lee outscored his opponents 55-7 in five matches at the NCAA Championships. He posted a 23-3 overall record, including a perfect 7-0 mark in Big Ten duals. For the 2018-19 season, he recorded a team-high seven technical falls and eight pins, ranking second on the team. He became an Academic All-Big Ten and was named the Mike Howard Most Valuable Wrestler. Lee was also named to the NWCA Academic All-American Team and is a two-time letter winner.
Men’s Basketball, Marquette University
Howard is a member of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, one of only two student-athletes in the nation. He was named the BIG EAST Player of the Year, is Marquette’s all-time leading scorer, and is the top scorer in BIG EAST history (1,587 points). Howard was a unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team honoree in 2019-20. He was the only person in 2018-2019 to finish in the top-10 in the nation in scoring and free throw percentage, and he’s already in possession of multiple Marquette single-game, season, and career records.
Rhythmic Gymnastics, USA Rhythmic Gymnastics
Griskenas is a full-time honors/AP student and dedicated athlete. She’s been named the National Junior Champion (June 2015), National ball (July 2018) and ribbon Senior National Champion (July 2019), and three-time all-around second-place Senior National Champion. Griskenas has had much international success as well. In September, she secured a spot in the top 8 in the world at the World Championships in Baku. She was the most decorated athlete of the August 2019 Pan American Games, and in October 2017, she swept all five gold medals at the Pan American Championships.
Women’s Basketball, University of Oregon
Ionescu is the first player in NCAA history to surpass 2,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds, and 1,000 career assists. She’s the NCAA all-time triple-double leader with 26 as of February 25, 2020. She’s a Pac-12 all-time leader in assists. She was awarded the 2018-19 Wooden Award and Wade Trophy winner as the national player of the year. Ionescu helped the Ducks to their first ever Final Four playing 1,369 minutes, the most in the NCAA. She graduated from the University of Oregon in just three years with a degree in general social science and is now pursuing her Master’s degree in Advertising and Brand Responsibility.
Stanford volleyball player Kathryn Plummer was named the 2019 AAU Sullivan Award winner during a ceremony on Tuesday in New York City.
This adds to the long list of awards
Plummer has racked up this season which includes the AVCA Player of the Year,
ESPNW Player of the Year and Pac-12 Player of the Year. To top it all
off Plummer helped lead her team to the NCAA National Championship where
Stanford defeated Nebraska for their 8th title.
what volleyball means to her Plummer said, “Volleyball shapes my life in almost
everything I do. My teammates become my family, and the support I receive from
everyone around me makes me appreciate the sport even more. It is a sport that
brings new challenges every day and it is always fun to learn and break new
Plummer beat out a strong class of finalists which included McKenzie Milton from UCF, Mikaela Foecke from Nebraska, Rachael Garcia from UCLA, Luke Maye from UNC, Aleia Hobbs from LSU, Townley Haas from Texas, and Morgan Hurd who competes as a part of the USA Gymnastics team. All of these finalists were well-deserving and each has made an incredible impact on their sport and their community.