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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Sports

How UH and David Rehr reignited Kellen Morin’s love for volleyball


After playing sparingly as a freshman at Virginia Tech, Kellen Morin finished third on UH in blocks in the regular season. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

After playing sparingly as a freshman at Virginia Tech, Kellen Morin finished third on UH in blocks in the regular season. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

As the daughter of two collegiate athletes, following in her parents’ footsteps had always been one of Kellen Morin’s goals.

“Volleyball has always been a huge part of my life,” Morin said. “I really strongly identify myself as an athlete. So, I can’t imagine not being an athlete.”

While that goal came true, her first college experience didn’t go as planned. Nothing seemed to go right for Morin during her freshman year playing for a Virginia Tech team that won just 11 matches all season.

Questions began popping up in Morin’s head of if she wanted to continue to play the sport she had poured so much of her life into. She knew the answer was yes but at the same time understood that her love for volleyball had faded.

“After going through a rough patch last year, I didn’t know where I stood with it,” Morin said.

Insert David Rehr, the UH head coach who had just the year before helped TCU transfer Kate Georgiades rediscover her love for volleyball. Georgiades ended up winning the American Athletic Conference’s 2021 Libero of the Year.

“The one thing talk about here at Houston and within our program is we’re going to make you love the game again,” Rehr said. “To love the game is to make it go wherever you want it to go.”

When he met with Morin after she entered the transfer portal, Rehr told the 6-foot-4-inch middle blocker the same thing he told Georgiades.

“I told (Rehr) about the situation at my old school and he was like ‘I want you to fall in love with volleyball again,’” Morin said. 

Though not knowing exactly what to expect if she transferred with the Cougars returning their two starting middle blockers, Isabel Theut and Rachel Tullos, Morin bought Rehr’s sales pitch and in March she announced that she would be transferring to UH.

The moment Morin stepped onto the UH campus, a spark was lit inside her.

She knew something was different just from quickly being able to make deep connections with the other 16 players on the team. 

“There’s not a single person on this team that I can’t feel like I can go up have a meaningful conversation with or go get lunch with on the weekends,” Morin said. “Those relationships were something I saw at the beginning of preseason and just how important they were to the success of our team.”

As her sophomore season drew near, Morin had a conversation with her mother on the phone. Speaking with full confidence, Morin told her mother that she was going to win a ring in her first season at UH. 

She couldn’t have been more right.

The Cougars finished with a 28-3 record, including a program-best 20 match win streak, and captured a share of the AAC title, UH’s first conference championship since 1999. UH also earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.

Morin played a major part in UH’s success, going from a rotational piece that Rehr did not exactly know how he was going to use to becoming one of the anchors in the middle for the Cougars.

Kellen Morin has rediscovered her passion for volleyball in her first season at UH. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Kellen Morin has rediscovered her passion for volleyball in her first season at UH. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

With tight-knit bonds built and plenty of matches won, Morin’s love and passion for volleyball was back, just as Rehr had promised.

“(Rehr) told me he was going to help in love with volleyball again which I truly feel like I have (at UH),” Morin said. “Winning conference and going to the (NCAA) tournament is all relighting that fire I have for volleyball.”

As Morin prepares to live out her childhood dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament, Desiigner’s “Tiimmy Turner” will be playing in her ears. It’s something she must listen to before every match.

“I have to listen to the same song before every game,” Morin said. “If I don’t, I won’t play well.”

It has worked so far and Morin hopes it will continue to keep her at the top of her game as well as help the Cougars put together an extended run in the NCAA Tournament.

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