Favorite athlete: Jenn Krzeminski, Elon University
Favorite team: Philadelphia 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning a bid to nationals when I was 13 with my club team.
Funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Being able to play middle on my Senior Night and getting a block.
Music on mobile device: 2000’s throwbacks
Future plans: I want to study communications disorders at the University of Central Florida and spend the rest of my life in the sunshine.
One goal before turning 30: Travel to Italy and eat as much pizza as possible.
Words to live by: “Don’t worry, be happy.”
One thing people don’t know about me: I’ve been deaf in one ear since I was 11.
By Ed Morrone
No athlete likes dealing with injuries, and Morgan D’Angelo is no different. However, according to Central Bucks East volleyball coach Kerri Rabberman, D’Angelo wears her scars like a badge of honor, and there are no lengths the senior wouldn’t go to if it meant sacrificing her body for the betterment of her team.
As a libero — better known as the defensive leader on the volleyball court — D’Angelo is no stranger to being physically banged up. Anyone that has played the position understands how physically demanding the job description is, and it’s never a surprise to see a libero constantly throw themselves to the deck if it means keeping the ball in play for the rest of the team to have an opportunity to score a point. It is by no means the most glamorous or heralded position on the court, so in this case, it fits the unselfish D’Angelo’s personality like a glove.
“She loves the battle wounds because they show how hard she plays,” Rabberman said. “The last two years, this is a girl who always had an injury, but you’d never know it because she always powered through. The other girls noticed that commitment and how she carries herself, and as a result, they want to be like her. Her actions have always spoken louder than her words. She’s just an amazing player — and person — to have on our team.
“She was a team captain the last two seasons, as well as the captain of our back row. Morgan isn’t the player who gets kills at the net every time, but she saves points left and right. She took that role and just went with it. Morgan has earned every rep she’s ever worked for and has just impressed me constantly.”
D’Angelo began playing competitive volleyball at the age of 12 and was indoctrinated into the sport thanks to her sister, Madie, four years her senior and a fellow alum of the East program. Morgan got the volleyball itch when she was 10 and she and her family would accompany Madie to matches and tournaments. There wasn’t much for Morgan to do, so she would grab a ball from the cart and do some hitting with her father or with Madie and her teammates before an event.
As a younger kid, Morgan felt included, and eventually she graduated to hitting balls with Madie in the family backyard. This only fueled Morgan’s competitive fire even more, and even though the sisters ended up playing different positions (Madie was a setter), both of them were hooked.
Morgan was a four-year varsity player for the Patriots, though it took her time to get to the point where she was a starting libero and captain. She didn’t play much her freshman season, then saw the court a bit more frequently as a sophomore, all the while biding her time for the team’s incumbent libero to graduate in 2017. Even as D’Angelo patiently waited her turn, she never assumed the role was hers and continued to work her tail off so that when her number was called, she would be ready.
“In the back of my mind I knew that she was graduating, but I still had that mindset that I had to fight for my playing time,” D’Angelo said. “At the beginning of every season, Kerri always said nobody has guaranteed playing time. I took that to heart, and I knew that I had to fight for what I wanted.”
As that pivotal junior season approached in the summer of 2018, disaster nearly struck for D’Angelo. While spending some time down in Florida a week before tryouts began, she was diagnosed with mononucleosis, which forced D’Angelo off the court during a critical juncture in her playing career.
Rabberman thought she might have to get somebody else to be her starting libero, but D’Angelo did the same thing as always when the deck was stacked against her: she fought and persevered through the obstacle that was so inopportunely placed in front of her.
“I cried so much because for awhile I wasn’t sure I would be able to play,” D’Angelo recalled. “I still went to the tryouts, but I had to just sit there and watch, which was so hard because I love this sport and I wanted to be on the court.”
D’Angelo made it back for East’s first match of the season, although Rabberman eased her back into the action since she had missed so much time and preparation.
“Once I made it back, my mindset was that I had missed so much already, so I had to make it up with what little time I had left,” D’Angelo said. “The season is short; it’s only eight or so weeks, so I know I can’t let an obstacle get in my way and force me to shut it down. I needed to through it, and I knew it would get better since it couldn’t get any worse. If I keep fighting, I’ll make the best of it and won’t look back and be disappointed I gave up and didn’t try.”
Once D’Angelo finally became entrenched as the team’s starting libero, she wouldn’t let it go. Rabberman estimated that D’Angelo was on the court for 95 to 99 percent of every match she played, and it would have been 100 if rules didn’t prevent the same player from serving every single time.
Rabberman also said that D’Angelo’s volleyball IQ is off the charts. In addition to being able to save balls by throwing her body to the floor and turning potential points for the opposition into points for her own team, D’Angelo also possesses instincts and anticipation and is able to anticipate where the opposing server is going to put the ball.
“Kerri helps me a lot with that,” said D’Angelo, never one to seek credit even when she deserves a ton of it. “She would give us write-ups on our next opponent, and we would go through it the day before a match at practice regarding where the other team’s hitters like to put it. I just tried to visualize that when I go on the court, which helps me know where I need to be before it happens.
“Honestly, the hardest hitter to read is Kerri; I have such a hard time in practice with her hitting the ball to different spots to see if I can read it. So, when it comes to the real games, it’s not as hard, because she’s already pushed me so hard and showed me I can do it.”
As far as shining in the role of libero, well, it’s a dirty job that someone has to do, and D’Angelo did it so well. The Patriots posted a 12-11 overall record this past season, including a 10-8 mark in the National Conference, which was good enough to qualify the team for districts. The year prior, East went 16-7 and 12-6, advancing to the second round of districts, indicating that D’Angelo’s successes were directly tied to the team’s.
“Libero isn’t a position where I’m going to rack up all the kills, but what I do is I fight so that my teammates can get their stats and the team can do better as a whole,” she said. “If there was nobody to pass the ball, there would be no chance to run an offense. Plus, I love when people who don’t know much about volleyball come to see me play and throw my body on the ground going for balls. I think after that, they see how intense, competitive and fun volleyball is as a sport.”
Now that her senior season has been over for about a month, D’Angelo admits that she misses it terribly. If she could, she would push the reset button, go back to freshman year and live the past four years all over again. This is in part because of how close the team was; the word ‘family’ may be thrown around a lot in the sports world, but D’Angelo insists that’s exactly what the East volleyball program was to one another.
That said, she keeps as busy as possible now that her volleyball career is over. D’Angelo attacks her studies in the classroom with the same ferocity as she does on the court. As a student, she’s always been drawn to the science classes, and once she gets to college — most likely to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where she has already been accepted — D’Angelo plans to study communication disorders with the ultimate goal of entering the field of pediatric audiology or speech pathology. It turns out she has a condition of her own that has made her deaf in one ear since she was 11, and she wants to pay it forward to kids suffering similar afflictions, the same way her doctors did for her.
“It inspired me,” she said. “An obstacle was thrown at me that took my hearing in one of my ears, so I want to learn more about it so that I can help kids who grew up how I did and assist them the best that I can. It would be cool in the sense that we would be able to relate to each other.”
D’Angelo said she hopes to play volleyball at the club or intramural level at Central Florida, and admitted that she was kicking herself a bit for not more seriously pursuing the sport at the collegiate level.
As for the rest of her senior year, D’Angelo has remained occupied inside and outside of school. She holds down an afterschool job at a local bakery, The Lucky Cupcake, and is also very involved in Key Club, which provides volunteer opportunities in the community. One of those has been working with Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that works to eradicate hunger and poverty. Additionally, D’Angelo helps coach one of her former club volleyball teams, East Coast Power.
“One of my old coaches asked me to come help as an assistant volunteer coach,” she said. “I miss volleyball so much, so it keeps me on the court.”
D’Angelo isn’t someone who will be easily replaced at East, on or off the court. Just take it from her head coach.
“I’ll miss our relationship off the court as much as I’ll miss watching her on it,” Rabberman said. “Morgan is passionate with every emotion she feels, and she wasn’t just my player - she’s my family. I’m so proud of her, and I know she’s going to go off and do so well. Her determination, dedication, that instant smile she could bring to anyone’s face, she just had a persona and a presence that nobody will be able to replace.”
For D’Angelo, the feeling was beyond mutual. She talked about how different the feeling is now that her high school volleyball career is finished, going from spending all day every day with her teammates. Now, they’ll see each other in school or send one another a few text messages during the week to stay in touch. But it’s not the same, and nothing ever is if you are lucky enough to experience something transcendent, something that bonds you and a group of strangers together so closely that you do start viewing these people as family.
“These past four years, they made my high school experience,” D’Angelo said. “If I didn’t play volleyball, it would have been so different. I probably would have hated it. To get to go to school and be with people you love while playing a sport you love, it was just such a great experience. If I was stressed out about school or something, for those two hours after school, it didn’t matter. Just being on the team made everything so worthwhile.
“I’ll miss being with my teammates. I’ll miss Kerri so much, and the whole volleyball family. That’s what they are now and always will be: my family.”
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