Hitting harder: Lampasas trio sign intent letters

Herald/Steven Doll - Lampasas senior volleyball player Madison Morris signed her letter of intent to UTEP on Wednesday.

By Angel Verdejo

Killeen Daily Herald

In a few years, maybe a few of Madison Morris' teammates at UTEP will have the same thoughts when facing the 6-footer that her Lampasas teammates had in practice or opponents had during the season.

Look out if the middle blocker is anywhere near the front row. At the very least, watch your face.

Morris, who admitted college volleyball wasn't in her plans just a few years ago, made it a reality Wednesday afternoon, signing her national letter of intent with the Miners.

"This made my day," she said. "I'm having such a great day."

As part of her ceremony, a highlight video of Morris was shown to those in attendance inside the Lampasas cafeteria. The first play was a Morris kill that hit an opposing player square in the face. The kill, the first of three that nailed opponents on the video, was then replayed in slow motion.

"There's no other feeling like it honestly," Morris said. "It's great because I hit it hard enough that they don't know it's coming."

But while those came against other teams, Morris admitted there was a time she felt bad after hitting someone. That came during the many workouts between the Lady Badger varsity and JV teams.

"One girl actually told me - she was on the back row - 'I actually want to keep my braces on today," Morris said. "I was like, 'Ha, ha, Okay.' And I hit her in the face - I felt so bad that day."

Morris was named the 25-3A Offensive MVP this week, leading Lampasas with 373 kills and 79 total blocks). Her 171 assists were second on the team, while Morris added 72 aces.

She earned first-team honors last year in 25-4A after being named the 2008 district newcomer of the year.

"It's been huge to have a player that can do what she does and bring the kind of life she does to the court," Lampasas head coach Beth Rutland said, adding Morris has been role model. "I remember when I was in middle school having a player like that, that I could look up to and made me want to play volleyball. She's that kind of player."

Morris helped develop her skills though the Bell County Juniors club team. Two years ago, Temple College head coach Mary Reese, who also coaches the club, told Morris she had Division I talent, though Morris shrugged off the initial idea. But the attention soon followed, with Morris eventually committing to UTEP in July.

Strickland heads to Ouachita Baptist

It was about the first impression for Kaitlyn Strickland.

The Ouachita Baptist coaches first contacted Strickland during summer and when she visited the school in Arkadelphia, Ark., she "fell in love." She signed with the Division II program in the morning, starting the trio of Lampasas signings Wednesday.

"The two coaches - they're just two old men that love softball," she said of OBU coaching staff. "They love their girls, they love everything about life. They're good Christian men and I fell in love instantly.

"It was the best (first impression). And second impression and third impression."

The distance - roughly seven hours - makes her nervous, but other schools, even closer schools, couldn't change Strickland's mind.

"As soon as I went, I told my parents, 'This is where I want to go,'" she said. "This is my new home."

Strickland was named the 2009 District 25-4A co-offensive player of the year, as she helped the Lady Badgers win the district. They posted seven run-rule wins en route to the 10-0 district mark.

Strickland hit .500, scoring 27 runs while driving in 27 as well.

Looking ahead at college, Strickland will stay in the outfield. Her playing time, of course, depends on her bat.

"If I don't hit, then I sit," she said. "So as long as my bat's going, I have my place on the field."

Bogart signs with St. Edward's

Before committing to St, Edward's University over the summer, Marisa Bogart really couldn't afford a bad day when playing softball, whether it was for Lampasas or her club team.

"If a coach comes to see you and you have a bad day that day, they might not come see you again," said Bogart, an all-district second baseman who signed with the Hilltoppers.

And just when "Rizzo" said it felt good to have her college plans set and not worry about who was watching, she paused before going on.

"If you're coaches come, then you have to make sure you're doing good so you don't get in trouble," she joked.

Bogart hasn't had too many bad days while playing for the Lady Badgers. She hit .473 last year and drove in 25 runs for Lampasas, which ran through District 25-4A unbeaten for its second straight title.

Her college aspirations, however, weren't immediate. At a practice one day, her club coach asked for anyone that wanted to play college softball to raise her hand.

"I didn't originally raise my hand because I thought, "I don't know about that,'" Bogart said. "My mom came over all mad and asked, 'You're not playing college softball?'

"And I said, "I guess I am.' It's a fun experience after you figure out what you want."

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