April 15, 2014
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 8, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2013-14 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- They say good things come to those who wait. They say some things are meant to be. They say sometimes you have to act on a little blind faith.
And they were right.
In the spring of 2011, University of Iowa head women's tennis coach Katie Dougherty was nearing the end of her first full season in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes had just signed the No. 18 recruiting class in the nation -- Ellen Silver, Shelby Talcott and Katie Zordani were on their way to the UI campus -- but there was room for more. Iowa had one scholarship left on the table, and Dougherty knew where to fill it.
"We had a scholarship come up last minute and I sent (former assistant) Jesse (Medvene-Collins) over to watch her play," said Dougherty. "Her name had been floated around for a while, and once he saw her he said we shouldn't pass. She could be too good. Nice kid."
'Over' was Scotland. The 'nice kid' was Morven McCulloch.
"We knew she had that potential to be special. She has always had great hands, and it has been fun to see her evolve. She's putting the pieces together, which is always amazing to see from student-athletes."
UI head coach Katie Dougherty on McCulloch
Then a 17-year old student at St. George's School for Girls in Edinboro, Scotland, McCulloch wasted little time committing to a school she had never visited, a state she could not locate on a map, and a head coach she couldn't pick from a crowd.
"The offer was late," said McCulloch, a junior who originally hails from St. Andrews, Scotland. "I didn't really know if I was going to come to the States, but it happened and I found a great place. I didn't come and visit, that's how late it was. Jesse saw me play for two hours and the next day coach called and offered and I accepted."
Since her arrival, McCulloch has grown her game, transformed her body, and evolved into a team leader.
"We knew she had that potential to be special," said Dougherty "She has always had great hands, and it has been fun to see her evolve. She's putting the pieces together, which is always amazing to see from student-athletes. She came back this fall in the best shape she has ever showed up in and she has stepped into the No. 2 role."
McCulloch is 8-8 overall this year in singles -- three wins shy of matching her career high -- and 13-2 partnering with Ruth Seaborne at the top doubles spot.
"There is never an easy day at No. 1 doubles or at the top three in the lineup, and she has done a great job of stepping in and beating quality opponents," said Dougherty. "She's putting together back-to-back wins, which she had struggled with when she was younger."
McCulloch is doing a few things different from her first days on campus.
"I'm being a lot more aggressive and using my forehand more," said McCulloch. "I'm using my slice and backhand to set the point up, but I'm using it really to move up the court to hit the forehand, come to the net and play my game."
Simply put, her game has matured, and her coaches and teammates are the benefactors.
"She is the most selfless person on the team," said Dougherty. "She puts everyone's happiness in front of her own and does a great job motivating. She keeps people loose during the match."
"I wasn't really loud my freshmen year and the seniors really helped me come out of my shell and fight for the team," said McCulloch. "I want to give the team a lift. I've always liked helping people, so if someone is having a bad day they know where to come."
That offer extends to her friends back home... if they're up for the travel.
"I love it here, and I always encourage friends to come visit," said McCulloch. "Iowa is a great place and they should come before they think anything of it."