By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
Any discussion of the best girls student-athletes in West End High School history must include current senior Morgan Cleveland.
As a junior, Cleveland was selected to the Class 2A All-State in three sports. She made first team at outside hitter in volleyball, first team at shortstop in softball and second team at forward in basketball.
Cleveland’s skills prove she could probably excel at any of the three sports in college, but she chose to pursue a scholarship in volleyball.
Cleveland made it official on Nov. 19 when she signed a national letter of intent with Shorter University in Rome, Ga.
The Lady Hawks are an NCAA Division II program that will become a member of the Gulf South Conference beginning with the 2014-15 season.
“I’m so excited,” Cleveland said. “I’ve been looking for this moment forever. I’ve been working hard toward it. Actually being able to get a four-year scholarship has been amazing. It’s everything I wanted.”
Cleveland compared Shorter volleyball coach Jon Mo-seley to West End head coach Audra Noojin.
“It’s just a home (like) feeling,” she said of Shorter. “He makes you feel just like part of the team. It’s like a family, and I just love that. I love the school and everything. It’s such a small school, and I’m used to small, being from a 2A school.”
Shorter has an enrollment of just over 1,600 students, which allows the institution to offer small class sizes, which Cleveland likes.
The 5-foot-9 ½ Cleveland said Moseley recruited her to play outside hitter.
“He said if I work hard and play like he knows I can, there’s a good possibility I could start as a freshman.
Cleveland earned four varsity letters for the Lady Patriot volleyball program, leading West End to state tournament berths in 2011, 2012 and 2013. West End reached the Class 2A Final Four the last two years.
Cleveland credits Noojin with the program’s success. Noojin, who played college volleyball at Gadsden State, has been West End’s head coach for three years.
“I love it because she’s just like one of us,” Cleveland said. “She can understand what we mean when we’re asking questions, and she’s like a mom figure to us. You can go up to her and talk to her about anything. At practice, if you need her to show you an example, since she played college volleyball, she can actually show you what you’re supposed to do.”
Cleveland said her sophomore season, her first under Noojin, was her most memorable.
“We got to host area and we won area, host regional, won that and got to host sub-state at our gym and won that,” Cleveland said. “With the student section we have and the fans … just the community support that year was just the absolute best.”
Noojin said Cleveland earned a scholarship because of her work ethic.
“She’s always done club volleyball, and then after club she’ll start regular-season volleyball,” Noojin said. “She’s played year round for years, and that makes a big difference.”
Cleveland’s club experience included Gadsden Volleyball Club and Smith Lake Juniors Volleyball Club.
“Even when Morgan was younger, she was a leader on the floor,” Noojin said. “Maybe not verbally, but just showing it. As a senior she stepped up as a leader.
“Coach Moseley has talked a lot about Morgan’s personality, how he thinks it would fit in with their program. She has front-row ability, back-row ability and she can play all the way around the court, which is also a big deal.
“She was my leading attacker and leading digger for all three years. Especially when you have a libero, your libero is usually your top digger. She’s been my top digger every year. When you look at her, she’s a hitter, she’s a front-row player. But she’s got back-row (ability) too. She’s helped us all the way around the court. We’re going to miss her.”