By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Put a microphone in her hands, and Madison Morey is a natural. That was clear to anyone who saw her hyping up the crowd last Sunday at John Paul Jones Arena, where Virginia knocked off North Carolina in women’s basketball.

The in-game host for women’s games at JPJ is often Karlie Smith, and Morey, a fourth-year UVA student, began shadowing her in December. As the season has progressed, Morey’s role as emcee during games has grown, and her mentor is one of her biggest fans.

“I think what’s awesome about Madison is she’s just so genuine and kind,” Smith said, “and she just brings a light to whatever she’s doing. It doesn’t matter if she’s on camera, off camera, in the pregame meal, or throwing T-shirts. Whatever the case, you can tell that she’s just a genuine, lovely person to be around.”

When they began working together at JPJ, Morey said, Smith helped her overcome any nervousness she might have had about speaking in front of a crowd that size. Smith’s support has allowed her to “build confidence in myself and just go out there and be like, ‘All right, I’m gonna knock this out of the park,’ ” Morey said. “She’s been nothing but the best.”

Morey will be back at JPJ on Friday night to serve as host for UVA’s wrestling dual meet with Virginia Tech. She’s accustomed to performing in front of crowds. Morey, who’s from Marietta, Ga., played volleyball at Virginia for four seasons. A series of concussions ended her career prematurely, but she remains connected to athletics.

A media studies major, Morey has long dreamed of reporting on sports, but she always envisioned herself focusing on football.

“I never thought that I would actually be interested in doing volleyball,” she said.

That changed after she landed an internship with Volleyball Adrenaline, a service that primarily covers the sport at the high school and club level. In December, Morey and UVA teammate Ciera Hecht conducted interviews for Volleyball Adrenaline at the NCAA tournament’s Final Four in Tampa, Fla. Last month, Morey traveled to Orlando, Fla., for the Under Armour All-America game, which featured many of the top recruits in the high school Class of 2024.

“We shot content, created social media posts, and did interviews with the girls and basically just put it up on our site,” Morey said. “And when we talked to committed girls, we just asked them a little bit about the recruiting process and their experience at these events. A lot of young girls follow [the sport], so they look up to these athletes and basically just try to learn from their recruiting processes and all of that. Then this semester I’ll be traveling to a club tournaments and basically interviewing athletes, top recruits, to just try to get their names out there and help them with their recruiting process.”

Morey said it’s been “super interesting to find that I love reporting volleyball, and I think it gives me more of a sense of confidence, because I know what I’m talking about. I spent [about] 12 years of my life playing it, so it’s easy for me to go out there and talk game with a top setter, or a top outside [hitter], because I have all those facts and that knowledge.”

Her trip to Tampa helped Morey in two ways, UVA head coach Shannon Wells said. “No. 1, it was an opportunity for her to see that level of volleyball and see what the Final Four actually feels like, because it’s one thing to watch it on TV, but something else to actually be able to go and experience that. And then she was able to be around some of the best media people in our game, the people that she’s been watching or have been part of our matches as well, and kind of see and shadow them and see what they do on a day-by-day basis.”

Madison Morey (right) and Karlie Smith

Morey has had to overcome multiple obstacles during her four years at UVA. In the fall of 2020, she contracted COVID-19 and missed about a month of the season, her first at Virginia. Then, in February 2021, she suffered a concussion when a volleyball hit by a teammate struck her in the head during practice. The next month, an undisclosed personnel matter led to the dismissal of the Cavaliers’ coaching staff.

During the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Morey played in 177 sets as a libero for the Wahoos, but she had another physical setback last fall and played in only 43 sets.

Near the midpoint of the season, Morey said, “I got hit in the head off of a ball that ricocheted in practice pretty hard, and it knocked me out. That was my sixth concussion, and so my recovery was pretty long. It was close to a month.”

She wasn’t able to travel with the team and her headaches persisted. And so Morey decided to give up the sport. “It was towards the end of the season,” she said, “and I was just like, ‘I really want to be healthy in the future and I don’t want to risk my future health, especially in my brain.’ ”

Wells, who took over as Virginia in April 2021, will miss coaching Morey.

“She just gives 100 percent in anything she does,” Wells said. “She’s just so selfless, and she loves everything about UVA, so it’s not surprising that once her volleyball career on the court was done that she still wanted to stick around athletics and contribute as much as possible and still give her love and energy in whatever capacity that could be. I’m just really glad that UVA has found a place for her [at JPJ events] so she can stick around a little longer and be involved.”

Madison Morey

Her undergraduate years, Morey said, have “taught me a lot about what real life looks like, because you come in and you have these hopes and dreams and aspirations like, ‘I’m gonna have a healthy four years.’ That’s the hope, but it’s never going to go perfectly. And so I think it taught me a lot about who I am as a person facing adversities and challenges and how to respond from them.

“I’ve loved my experience here, because it is prepping so much for what real life is going to look like and the challenges I’m going face out of life. I’ve faced some pretty rough challenges here, losing my [first coaching staff] and then having to start building new relationships with new coaches and then building a whole new program. It taught me a lot about being a leader, using my voice, relying on those strong connections that you build with the people around you and who have your back during those tough moments, but who also are going to push you when you’re not up to your standards. And so I think that I wouldn’t ask for it any other way.”

One of the highlights of Morey’s time on Grounds has been the extended conversation she had with UVA president Jim Ryan last spring. Ryan wanted to learn more about the life of a student-athlete at the University and invited Morey to appear on his podcast.

“I was like, ‘No way am I missing this,’ ” Morey said, smiling. “We recorded the podcast on Zoom, and it was actually really cool. I never thought that I would be talking to the president of the University.”

She was nervous at first, Morey said, but “the conversation flowed really well. I was able to just build off of him and he was such an amazing guy, just so awesome and easy to talk to. And so the experience was really, really, really surreal.”

Morey is on track earn her bachelor’s degree in May, after which she hopes to pursue a master’s, in sports journalism or sports management, while serving as a graduate assistant for a college volleyball program.

If that doesn’t work out, she said, she’ll probably return home to Georgia and look for a job in broadcasting, “to just kind of get my foot in the door and then continue to build off of that.”

Wells will be rooting for her. “Mo has big dreams of what she wants to do in this world, and there’s no doubt that she’ll be able to get there.”

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