Many project their accomplishments for the world to hear. Mike Morris prefers to let his play do the talking.
The mild-mannered Ontario, Canada native is in the midst of a stellar junior season in which he was recently bestowed his second “Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Offensive Player of the Week” honor. Statistically, Morris has been a nightmare for opposing defenses. He leads the team in goals (33), and his goal-per-game average sits at 2.55, good for fifth overall in the conference. Though a robust, 6’0, 195 pounds, Morris relies more on his finesse than just brute strength.
“Mike’s strengths would certainly be in his stick skills, shooting, passing, vision, accuracy and overall high lacrosse IQ,” said assistant coach Chris Panos. “Sky’s the limit for his potential moving forward. He’s a big part of our team and our Tampa Lacrosse family overall.”
Freshman English major Greg Browne, his teammate, also raved about Morris’ dazzling play on the pitch.
“Mikey has a unique Canadian skill-set that’s really fun to watch. He has unbelievable stick skills and can shoot the ball extremely well. He does a good job of getting open and using his soft hands and quick release to score goals,” Browne said.
Morris’ story begins about 1,300 miles away from Tampa in a town called Oakville, just 30 minutes outside of Toronto. Growing up, it didn’t take long for him to become immersed into the lacrosse scene. As an eager four-year-old, he would travel with his brother’s novice lacrosse team, the Oakville Hawks, and “warm up” goalies before the team took the field. Little did he know, he’d be scoring on them later on in life. During his high school days, Morris attended the Salisbury School, an all-boys boarding school in Connecticut known for its dominance in athletics. While at Salisbury, Morris rallied the team to three New England championships and earned himself a spot on the Under Armour High School All-American team.
Like many of his current teammates, Morris originally began at a Division I school (Johns Hopkins), but ultimately found the smaller UT to be a better fit. Given his 24 goal-11 assist-19 games played statline from last year, it seems the move paid off. Now one of the older members on a relatively young UT squad, Morris commands quite a bit of respect despite his quiet and easygoing personality.
“He’s a really easy going guy that everyone seems to like,” Browne said. “He mostly leads by example, but everyone listens when he speaks up.”
In many ways, UT and Morris have had a reciprocal effect on each other. Morris feels at home here, and the school benefits from his presence on the field. He and All-American sophomore teammate Conor Whipple have become a dynamic duo in their own regard: establishing themselves as a fearsome, goal-scoring machine. Together, the pair accounts for nearly five goals per game, and mutually alleviate defensive pressure by working sympatico.
“This year he has really gained more confidence and become a more consistent scorer for us game thus far this season. We count on him to score multiple goals every game,” said Coach Panos.
Morris simply credits Whipple for making him look good on the field.
“It’s no secret that I’m playing alongside one of the best attackers in the country, Conor Whipple. He makes my life a lot easier, that much I can say. The kid’s got X-ray vision,” said Morris.
Though its hard to find any glaring flaws with Morris, Panos believes he can make a few adjustments to take his already proficient game to an even higher level, namely improvements in strength, fitness and a “more consistent work attitude.” Morris is intent on improving and doing whatever it takes to elevate the Spartans to their first ever National Championship.
“It means a lot to be recognized in such a competitive conference with so many great players, but I’m more concerned about getting our seniors a National Championship ring,” Morris said.
With two regular season games left and the SSC tournament looming, Morris will be relied upon heavily in the coming month. And you better bet he’s up for the challenge.
Griffin Guinta can be reached at email@example.com.