Iowa volleyball stars write happy ending

Morgan Kuhrt and Kinsey Caldwell led Waverly-Shell Rock to the Class 3A state title as seniors. Dan Brouillette/ESPNHS

This story originally appeared in the winter issue of ESPNHS Girl magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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Few positions in sports require athletes to be in harmony like setter and outside hitter.

Using a combination of precision and power, they need to be on the same page to have any kind of success. So it’s no surprise that Morgan Kuhrt and Kinsey Caldwell have thrived together. Longtime teammates on the court, close friends off of it, the Iowans have combined to form an unbeatable volleyball team.

In fact, it seems the only thing they can’t agree on is when they started playing together. (Morgan says fifth grade; Kinsey says fourth.) Either way, they’ve been setting and spiking together nearly half of their lives. As a result, the Waverly-Shell Rock (Waverly, Iowa) senior co-captains have developed their own unspoken language on the court.

“Sometimes when I go up to hit, I don’t even have to call for the ball,” says Morgan, an Iowa State-bound outside hitter. “She just knows where I am.”

Adds Kinsey, a UNLV-bound setter: “I’m confident that every time I set her, she’ll be able to put the ball down. It’s awesome that the two of us work so well together.”

As sophomores, they helped lead the Go-Hawks to a Class 3A state title. Even though they were young, they were the driving forces behind the triumph. Kinsey had the state-title-clinching kill, while Morgan finished with a team-high 26 kills. Both made the six-player All-Tournament team.

Last year, Waverly-Shell Rock lost in the state semifinals, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Morgan was a first team All-State pick, and Kinsey made the second team.

The duo capped its final season together by winning another Class 3A state title. Morgan, who had 31 kills in the final, was named the All-Tournament team captain, and Kinsey, who had 51 assists, joined her longtime teammate on the All-Tournament team.

After playing side by side for so many years, they say it’s hard to believe this was their last season together.

“It’s weird to think that really soon she’s not going to be my teammate,” Morgan says. “She’s always been on my team.”

Given Morgan’s power above the net, Kinsey is happy about that.

“I would be a little scared if I was on the other side,” she says with a laugh.

As they get ready for the next chapter in their careers, they do so knowing they wouldn’t have reached this point by themselves.

“I couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like playing without her,” Morgan says. “She’s such an amazing player and has helped me get even better. I’m really glad I got the chance to play with her.”