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Well Seasoned: Sirbaugh shines year-round for Warriors

Sirbaugh hits a shot
Sherando's Morgan Sirbaugh, center, hits a shot past Millbrook during a Northwestern District matchup this past season. Dennis Grundman/Daily (Buy photo)

Sirbaugh looks to drive past
Sirbaugh, right, looks to drive past Skyline's Kristina Salazar. Dennis Grundman/Daily (Buy photo)

Sirbaugh heads the ball
Sirbaugh heads the ball against Western Albemarle during this season's Region II tournament quarterfinals. Andrew Thayer/Daily file (Buy photo)

By Jeremy Stafford - jstafford@nvdaily.com

STEPHENS CITY -- Her day doesn't end when the sun sets, and the summer's dawn doesn't bring her months of leisure.

Because in addition to playing volleyball, basketball, and soccer at Sherando, Morgan Sirbaugh must fit a fourth season into the nooks and crannies of her already complicated schedule.

The Northern Virginia Volleyball Association season begins a bit after Christmas and goes on through the spring. For some teams, the club volleyball season seeps into the summer.

Playing club volleyball isn't uncommon among local high school athletes, yet uncommon is what Sirbaugh makes it seem -- few athletes concurrently excel at three sports in four seasons the way she does.

During her sophomore volleyball season, she had 236 kills and was named first team All-Northwestern District and second team All-Region II. As a centerback on the girls soccer team in the spring she had two goals, two assists, and was named first team All-Northwestern District. Her 14.6 points per game during girls basketball season in the winter, like her kills in the fall, ranked fifth in the area.

She's also The Northern Virginia Daily Female Athlete of the Year.

This is how Sirbaugh claims she did it: "I worked hard and I tried my best," she said.

But more often than not, club volleyball practices interfered with Sherando basketball practices.

Or maybe the basketball practices interfered with the volleyball practices -- Sirbaugh can't say for sure. Of the three sports she plays, her favorite is all of them.

When it's volleyball season, she yearns for basketball and soccer; when it's soccer season, she longs to play basketball and volleyball, and so on. Yet she's still delighted with whatever sport is in season.

Which makes whizzing from basketball to club volleyball, from soccer to club volleyball, a gratifying process.

"It's tiring going from one to another, but I push through it and keep playing," Sirbaugh said. "Practices conflict a lot, and it is hard to do it, but I love it."

The exhausting days also make for long nights, spent writing papers and spinning through whatever homework is due in the morning.

Sirbaugh considered dropping basketball to focus on club volleyball, as her older sister Megan had, but resolved that basketball was too important to give up. Morgan Sirbaugh played well her freshman year -- her 14.4 points per game in the 2008-09 season was third most in the area -- and if she sees basketball through to her senior season, she might then be flirting with the Sherando career scoring record.

Doing away with basketball might have left a chilling void in her winter to match the seasonal frost; she'd rather enliven her winter with two sports than spread it thin with one.

Morgan and Megan Sirbaugh's decision to continue with soccer was simpler: "We both really love soccer," said Megan Sirbaugh, a rising senior at Sherando. "Coach [Rob] Kilmer is great, we love working with him, and we've been playing since kindergarten.

"It's something we've stuck with for this long and we didn't want to give that up."

Sherando's girls soccer team didn't lose a district match in the spring, and it won the Northwestern District tournament. Morgan Sirbaugh's goal against Western Albemarle in the Region II tournament quarterfinals was the first scored on the Jefferson District giant since April 19.

Sirbaugh's volleyball season was perhaps more enthralling than her soccer season, if only because its ending was less predictable.

Entering the 2009 season, Sherando appeared maimed by graduation, while Millbrook returned six seniors, including two of the area's top hitters from 2008. The district, when laid out on paper, would go to Millbrook; Sherando's season would be a red smearing on a powder blue canvas.

Morgan and Megan Sirbaugh commiserated to each other their concerns for the season; Sherando volleyball coach Chuck Ashby assumed the season would be a sprint for second place.

And then Sherando opened its season with a 3-1 win over Strasburg, the 2008 Group A state runner-up. Sherando swept Millbrook in the regular season and trounced Broad Run, the Dulles District tournament champion, 3-0 in the Region II quarterfinals.

"I was surprised," Morgan Sirbaugh said. "We knew we could play with them, but we didn't know if we could beat them, so I was happy with what we accomplished."

Volleyball, if Morgan Sirbaugh won't claim it as her favorite sport, is at least the sport she wants to pursue after high school. So she cheerfully slogs through the tiring days, the long nights, the camps in the summers, which have now replaced the basketball and soccer camps she regularly attended years ago.

Her volleyball camps generally double as college showcases. Sirbaugh sends e-mails to the coaches of prospective schools, then whets their interest all at one camp.

The most recent of these camps was held in Moon Township, Pa., at Robert Morris University last week. The Sirbaugh sisters displayed their abilities primarily during practice drills, game situations, and matches with randomly selected teams.

"It was all really impressive," Megan Sirbaugh said. "It brought in really good players from all over the East Coast."

Based on her recent history, Morgan Sirbaugh's immediate future is certainly promising, though it might be unfamiliar.

For two years, Sirbaugh has been a team leader by virtue of her athleticism: "Her skill level, I think, has let people accept her as a leader," Megan Sirbaugh said.

But as a junior, Morgan Sirbaugh's age and experience will cast her into an eminent position in all three sports. Not many juniors, after all, can rightfully boast two years' worth of starting experience on three different teams.

"I definitely feel now that, going into my junior year, I'm getting older and I have to step up in the leadership role," she said. "But I can't do it all by myself, so my teammates will all do their part."


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