Kingston’s Halady takes twisting path to Portland State

Morgan Halady went down a long and winding road to find her college home, and although there were some twists and turns along the way, it turned out to be the right path after all.

After four years of manning the middle of the net for Kingston High School, Halady will now do the same this fall for the Divsion 1 volleyball program at Portland State.

And although everything worked out in the end, COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench into the recruiting process for thousands of athletes all over the country. For Halady, that meant an exhausting undertaking of pursuing offers — some of which had to suddenly change based on the program’s financial state or having positional needs in flux — on top of going to school and playing a rigorous club schedule.

“Around this time last year when we shut down, it was super scary as an athlete in the recruitment system,” Halady said.

But a wonderful twist of fate helped Halady find the right place.

Portland State had an interest in recruiting Halady since the fall of 2020, but had a surplus of middle blockers, so there was no room for her in the program. But after COVID hit, college athletes everywhere were hitting the transfer portal or simply quitting their athletic pursuits entirely.

In late March, just before a planned trip to Western Oregon, a Division 2 school, an assistant coach from Portland State reached out and asked if Halady was still interested. Because of COVID, Portland State had lost four of its middle blockers.

The two campuses are about an hour apart in northern Oregon, so Halady decided to make a little detour. She wasn’t able to take an official visit, as NCAA rules prevented head coach Mike Seemann from meeting her on campus, but the makeshift stop convinced her the Vikings were the right program for her.

“I continued on to Western Oregon,” Halady explained, “and I liked that campus as well. But they don’t lie when they say, ‘You know when you go.’”

Committing to the net

Long before it came time to make a commitment to a college, Halady had a far more difficult choice to make.Standing 6-foot-2 with long limbs and great athleticism, the kid from Indianola is a natural for about any sport.

Halady played basketball for 13 years and was also a softball pitcher as a youngster. Although her career on the diamond ended after breaking her wrist in a childhood accident involving her dog and a scooter, her life in hoops continued into her freshman year at Kingston, where she was a standout forward on a team that qualified for the district tournament.

Heading into her sophomore year, Halady planned to stick with being a two-sport athlete and was willing to put in the long hours required to play high school basketball and club volleyball. But once the schedules came out, she realized games were on the same days. “It was like a bad break-up because I wanted to continue to play both,” Halady said.

By that time, Halady knew playing college volleyball was her dream, so it won out. “Volleyball honestly is a sport I could see myself playing for my whole life,” Halady said. “It’s such a great community; people are just constantly helping each other out. Not only do you get to play an awesome sport, you’re with a lot of amazing, unselfish people.”

And along the way she wanted to elevate her hometown program as well. Kingston had an up-and-coming volleyball program when she joined the team as a freshman, and Halady helped lead Kingston to its first two ever 2A state tournament appearances since it opened in 2007.

In 2017, Kingston finished third in the West Central District 3 tournament on a talented team that featured Ava McCabe, Melanie Borson and Samantha Young. The next year, that grouped geared up again to finish second in the Olympic League, fifth in the district and make another trip to Saint Martin’s University in Olympia for state.

The Bucs couldn’t make it 3-for-3 in 2019, in what turned out to be Halady’s last chance to play at state, but by that time, Kingston had become a much bigger name on the Washington volleyball scene.

“People would always say, ‘You don’t go to North [Kitsap]’ or, ‘you have to transfer to a bigger school,’” Halady said. “But I stayed at Kingston because I love my school. Both of my sisters went there, and I wanted to make a positive impact on my high school team. I knew how it felt when other athletes transferred to other schools.”

When she’s not on the volleyball court, Halady enjoys art in her spare time, which she took up to avoid the burnout that can sometimes accompany the grind of playing club and high school sports. She began painting at Kingston under the direction of James Andrews and ended up winning the Caro Wilding arts scholarship from the school. Halady will also have a few pieces hanging at the new Kitsap Physical Therapy center in the Poulsbo Village shopping center.

Becoming a Viking

Getting the chance at growing her artistic side was yet another reason Halady wanted to attend Portland State — the school has a good art program and the campus has a place for students to display their art — along with the coaching staff and the culture of the program. Halady said Coach Seemann and his staff were the type of people that took an interest in and cared about their players as whole people rather than strictly as athletes. “What really matters is the coaches and the players you’re going to be around,” Halady said. “It was knowing I was going to be coached by someone who was supportive and positive instead of degrading.”

Halady also said she was welcomed with open arms by her fellow future teammates. “When you think about the time you’re putting in, those people become a family,” Halady said. “You want to make sure it’s not a toxic family.”

And it won’t be long now before she joins the rest of the incoming freshmen and returning upperclassmen. Halady heads to Portland in the first week of August to get settled before practice begins. The butterflies are already fluttering as Portland State has an early season tournament held at the University of Oregon. Getting to stand on that distinctive, tree-themed floor will be the culmination of what turned out to be a nerve-wracking ride to playing high-level college volleyball.

“It’s everything I’ve been working toward for a really long time — to play D-1 volleyball,” Halady said.