There is something about the moral from The Tortoise and the Hare fable that suits Megan Ellis.
The 22-year-old outside hitter with the Portland State Vikings volleyball team has made the most of her opportunities with the NCAA Division I women's program, and is now poised to graduate as one of its all-time greats.
The Alpha Secondary School grad surpassed the 900-kill mark in her university career following her 14th double-double this season in a two-game sweep over Montana State last weekend. She has also bettered 700 kills earlier this month.
It was Ellis's all-around skills that initially caught the eye of Portland State's new head coach Michael Seemann while on a scouting mission to the Lower Mainland.
"What I saw was a player with good size and she stood out amongst the 100-odd players. ... She's a big, strong athlete."
Being a big fish in a small pond served Ellis well in her high school years.
She led the tiny Alpha program to a provincial high school AAA banner in 2006 and a bronze medal the year before.
Ellis was also named MVP at the 2007 provincial club championships with the Coquitlam Ducks and got a first-team all-star nod at the nationals.
But making the jump to NCAA's Division I was a bigger leap for the Burnaby product.
"It definitely was," said Ellis on a long-distance call from Portland. "It's just how competitive the sport is. There are 12 scholarships on the team and 15 (players) competing for six spots on the court."
Ellis red-shirted her first season with the Vikings before seeing limited action as a second-year freshman.
As a sophomore, she was displaced on the depth charts by the transfer in of Whitney Phillips, who became a two-time Big Sky conference first team all-star at Portland State and MVP in 2010.
"I think that year I was on the bench it helped me as an all-around player," Ellis said. "It just made me work on the skills that are important and what I needed to put myself on the court. That's what I've been working on."
After a successful junior year last season when she earned conference first-team honours, Ellis had to again adjust her game with the transfer of junior Jaklyn Wheeler to the Vikings' program this year.
Together, the pair of outside hitters have become a potent one-two punch in the conference for the league-leading 13-1 Vikings.
"There is always that doubt - and it happened to me in my second and third years - when I was thinking, 'When am I going to earn my spot?' It was almost everything I wanted. . But that came later," said Ellis, who is a two-time all-academic student/ athlete with a triple major in business.
For Portland State, the hiring of Seemann as head coach in 2006
was a turning point in a program that had not tasted success since winning consecutive Mountain West conference titles in the 1980s.
"It's a job I've always kind of wanted. I had a plan coming in," said Seemann.
Part of that plan included Ellis. "She had to experience a lot of firsts, and one of those was that the whole team is depending on her, and she has handled it really, really well," Seemann said.
With Ellis's steady influence and on-court versatility, Portland State has an opportunity to go farther than any other team in the program's history.
"I think so," said Seemann. "Obviously, we have to make it. But I think we have far more capability than ever before. We feel like we're going to put ourselves in a pretty good position."
And that is the team goal, Ellis added.
"It is," she said. "Our first goal is to win the conference. I would like another championship ring. It would be my third and most meaningful because it will be my last competitive volleyball game at this level and personally, competing with the best."
With Ellis anchoring one side of the court, Seemann is pretty confident that Portland State can meet those goals.
"She's a solid, solid kid. That's the thing that sticks out," said Seemann, remembering the breakout moment Ellis had as a junior.
"The defining moment came in a game against Montana. We were down 14-8 and we went to her four or five times, and we ended up winning the game. She took some gutsy swings. We were like, OK, this kid figured it out and is ready to contribute.
"This year, when we go to her, she delivers."
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