Hawai'i: Morgan Martin, Amy Ozee

Hawai’i’s Amy Ozee, Morgan Martin Feeding Off Each Other

Amy Ozee-Morgan Martin-p1440

Watch Morgan Martin dive straight through a ball block, bringing back a dig from Amy Ozee. Watch Ozee then scramble to the net, get a hand on a soft block, turn and burn and dive and pick up a dig on the ensuing and sneaky shot from Stanford’s Charlie Ekstrom. Watch Martin hit a diving cut shot to keep the ball in play, sending it back over to Ekstrom’s partner, Sunny Villapando. Watch as Ekstrom places a cut shot perfectly into the corner, and Martin, somehow, finding the energy to put a knuckle on it.

And then watch, even after they had lost the point, as Martin and Ozee smile. Catch their breath. Find the oxygen to still laugh.

Really what you’re watching when you watch Morgan Martin and Amy Ozee play beach volleyball is to watch pure, unadulterated joy. They seem to delight in making plays few others will try, let alone execute. Some might see an oncoming ball block and put on the brakes, worry about the next point. Martin instead crashes through. Some might stay at the net for Ekstrom’s quick shot over the block. Ozee performs impromptu gymnastics to get the ball up.

“They just feed off each other,” Hawai’i coach Jeff Hall said of his court one pair. “It’s been really fun to see that go.”

Fun is likely the most apt descriptor for these two. Even in the immediate moments after Ekstrom and Villapando beat Ozee and Martin in the final match of the Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic, 21-18, 8-21, 20-18, Ozee gushed about her partner.

“I’ve never had more fun than playing with Morgan,” she said. “Yeah, we didn’t win, but I had so much fun. Just playing with her is great.”

Morgan Martin-Amy Ozee

It could have once seemed unlikely the two would be playing together at all. Ozee was the multi-sport type, that kid who just seems to be good at whatever sport she may pick up. Raised in Makawao, Maui, Ozee helped Seabury Hall to four consecutive league titles, claimed a state championship in the high jump and finished her senior year named by the Maui News as the Best Student-Athlete.

And then there’s Martin. She’s a multi-sport athlete, too, though her path to the beach was decidedly more conventional. She won tournaments with and against professionals, picking up an AVP Next title in 2015 with Kelly Reeves, a U17 World Championship with Kathryn Plummer. She was named to the AVCA High School All-American team. Only five others earned that distinction.

“She only played adult events at 16 years old. She was kind of on a fast track and in beach volleyball, that’s the recipe,” Hall said. “When she came to campus, she obviously still needed work, but she was competition ready at a very high level. She’s been at one, she’s been at two and she’s been at three and she’s an All-American and one of our best players.”

Three years later, it’s the All-American and one of the hardest workers on the island. When Ozee chose to play beach for Hawai’i, she knew the work she’d have to put in to play with the likes of Martin, to compete against court one talent that is currently vying for medals on the world tour and making Sundays on the AVP. It actually became a problem, that work ethic.

“She’d go eight hours a day if she could,” Hall said. She’s tried, too.

“She would do so much work before and after practice that she started to see some nagging injuries,” Hall said. “So we actually had to pull the reins in because she wants to work so much.”

Still, stick around after a Hawai’i practice and you’ll see the same two putting in extra reps. It’ll be Martin and Ozee.

“Effort,” Martin says of her partner, “has never been a problem.”

Nor will it be. Ozee is high-energy to the point that while most listen to music to get their blood flowing before matches, she puts on Ed Sheeran to help calm her down.

“I’ve kind of been known for being spazzy my whole career,” she said, laughing, “but I made sure I listened to Ed Sheeran as my pump-up this morning and yesterday morning, and it worked. Everything just felt so comfortable. I’ve been working so hard to get here so it felt good.”

The work, in reality, is just beginning. There’s a different pressure on court one and two, a different feel. Two losses on the Sunday of the Duke Kahanamoku Beach Classic exposed what they need to work on – “just polish some things up,” Martin said.

What’s important to them is that they get to work on them together, as a team.

“For those tough moments, if you really care about that person, you’re willing to battle a little more, you’re a little more patient and your body language is pretty critical to your teammates’ success and [Amy] always has such a positive body flow,” Hall said. “She definitely doesn’t get down and she thrives in that moment. I rarely see a kid who loves the spotlight as much as her. She’s not cocky about it but she really embraces it and it’s what she’s wanted and she’s finally got there, and playing one at UH is a big deal and she just wore it this weekend.”

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