‘My journey in sports and life has taught me to dream. Chase those dreams with a solid plan and work ethic,’ Orillia lacrosse star Hannah Morris tells young athletes.

Four student athletes from each Orillia high school were honoured during Sport Orillia’s Breakfast of Champions on Thursday at Eclectic Café in downtown Orillia.

The event is annually held on the Thursday before Orillia’s Sports Hall of Fame inductions, slated for Saturday night. The event recognizes the accomplishments and dedication of local student athletes.

Speaking to students at the event was Hannah Morris, an Orillia lacrosse star who played for Team Canada in the Senior Women’s World Cup of Lacrosse twice. In 2021, Morris led the University of Louisville’s women’s field lacrosse team in goals with 56 while playing against the fiercest competition in the NCAA.

Several years ago, while attending Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School, Morris was selected to attend Sport Orillia’s Breakfast of Champions as a student-athlete.

“It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago when I was your age,” the 23-year-old told athletes in attendance. “It’s pretty cool to be here.”

The former Orillia Lady King, Orillia Laker, and Mariposa Gymnastics Club standout talked to the students about goal setting, hard work, and overcoming adversity.

After winning the first-ever U19 provincial championship with the Orillia Lady Kings and three consecutive Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association (OFSAA) championships with Patrick Fogarty, Morris set her sights on playing with Team Ontario at the national championships.

“I tried out but was cut twice,” she said. “It was devastating and, honestly, embarrassing.”

After being convinced by her coach and father Pat, Morris tried for a third time and succeeded.

“That decision led to some pretty incredible sporting experiences and life-changing moments,” she said. “I became the captain of Team Ontario, we won two national championships, and I got to play with my sister (Kassidy Morris).”

Morris went on to play Division 1 lacrosse in Louisville where she was once again faced with adversity in her first year.

“I underperformed, made mistakes, and dropped the ball,” she said. “I failed to meet expectations.”

In her first of five seasons with the Cardinals, the attacker only found the back of the net six times in 16 games.

“I think it’s moments like this that teach you a lot about who you are,” she said. “I kept a brave face, but I was devastated.”

Morris worked hard in the off-season to improve her stick skills, strength, techniques, and confidence and returned to Louisville for the 2020 season. This time she scored 21 goals in nine games and was the top goal scorer on the team.

“I taught myself that I could overcome things and that I belonged,” she said. “That might be the most important lesson, it’s what you do when you meet the obstacles.”

Morris, who studied kinesiology at Louisville, continued to excel on the field and in the classroom from that point on.

“My journey in sports and life has taught me to dream,” she said. “Chase those dreams with a solid plan and work ethic.”

Last year Morris was accepted to McMaster University in Hamilton to pursue her master’s in science and physiotherapy.

“There is no instant path to what we want and what we want isn’t always what it seems,” she told student-athletes. “We don’t just want to be an attacker, have a starting position, or an A in math, we want to feel and be confident, we want to know we can overcome, we want to succeed, and we want to have faith in ourselves and those around us.”

Morris says she owes her success to her failures, perseverance, family, and coaches.

“That’s a source of pride when I reflect,” she said. “I’m exceedingly grateful for what sport and lacrosse provided me.”

With lacrosse in the rear-view mirror, Morris says there are still intimidating life challenges ahead for her.

“I know inside that I’ve gained the resilience and ability to believe in myself,” she said. “I have the confidence to pick up the ball, carry it, and pick it up again when it falls. I think that internal feeling and achievement is my personal championship.”

The message resonated with the student athletes who are each on their own journey.

Local high school students recognized

Orillia Secondary School (OSS) athletes Raygen Hendley, Nolan Weening, Carter Holmes, and Canyon Ferguson were recognized Thursday.

Hendley, a Grade 11 student has participated in both flag football and slow pitch at OSS. Her softball coach describes her as a “selfless player who goes out of her way” to help her teammates and the opposing team. She’s an outstanding pitcher and first baseman. She’s a leader on the field and in all of her respective sports.

Weening, a Grade 12 student, was the captain of the volleyball team this year. His coaches say he demonstrated a “profound commitment” and “unwavering dedication” to his play throughout the season. Weening’s ultimate frisbee coach praised his “calm” and “collected” nature regardless of the pressure he may face on the field. He rarely makes a rushed play, has great timing, and a cannon for an arm.

Holmes, a Gade 11 student, was determined to get back to top form in his athletic pursuits despite being sidelined with a serious injury this fall. Holmes plays basketball, ultimate frisbee, rugby, football, and track and field at OSS. His coaches say he is often the first to congratulate his teammates and his competitors.

Ferguson, a Grade 11 student, earned a top-16 finish in wrestling at OFSAA this year. She’s also a member of the rugby, flag football, soccer and hockey teams at OSS. When the pressure is cooking, Ferguson’s work ethic shines brightest. Her coaches say she always strives for success and puts her team first.

Recognized from Twin Lakes Secondary School (TLSS) were Paige Baxter, Jacob Hazel, Payton Burnett and Erik Vurma.

Baxter, a Grade 12 student, was the captain and MVP of the senior girls’ basketball team this year. She also helped lead the TLSS senior girls’ volleyball team to OFSAA last year. Most notably, Baxter won MVP of the varsity girls’ soccer team despite never playing goalie before.

Hazel, a Grade 11 student, is a past male Junior Athlete of the Year at TLSS. The Simcoe County Athletic Association (SCAA) soccer champion is described by coaches as “innovative and intense.” Hazel was a defensive stud for the SCAA championship basketball team, won the Georgian Bay cross-country championships, and competed in Nordic skiing and track at OFSAA.

Burnett, a Grade 11 student, is also a former TLSS Junior Athlete of the Year. In Grade 10, she was named rookie of the year in softball and was the MVP of the hockey team in grades 9 and 10. In Grade 11, Burnett was the first female to play on the boys’ hockey team. She is currently being recruited to play at Division 1 after high school.

Vurma, a Grade 12 student, is a Georgian Bay championship volleyball player who has represented TLSS at OFSAA twice. He has also competed at OFSAA in swimming and Nordic skiing. His coaches commend him for his “fun demeanor” and character.

Recognized from Patrick Fogarty (PF) Catholic Secondary School were Emma Dickson, Cohen Robitaille, and Zach Clarke.

Dickson, a Grade 12 student, has been a standout volleyball player at PF during her high school career. She led her team on and off the court to an OFSAA appearance this season. Dickson is heavily involved with her school community and leads the Relay for Life committee.

Ali Rolston a Grade 10 student, got called up to the senior girls’ basketball team this year because of her maturity and skill set. Rolston, who also played on the junior girls’ volleyball and soccer team, is an outstanding field lacrosse goalie. She was recently named to Team Canada’s U20 national team.

Robitaille, a Grade 12 student, was a major contributor to the boys’ hockey Georgian Bay championship team that went on to play at OFSAA. Robitaille was one of the team’s leading scorers and a true leader in the dressing room.

Clarke, a Grade 10 student, student, won the junior Athlete of the Year award at PF last year. He’s a multi-sport athlete who played top minutes for the championship-winning hockey team. He was also on the lacrosse team that netted a silver medal at OFSAA last year.

Original Article By: Tyler Evans
Site: Orillia Matters
Date: May 2, 2024
Link to Original: Link to Orillia Matters
Photo: Supplied Photos / Orillia Matters