By David Cohen
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
For most athletes, an All-American season coupled with their school's only NCAA tournament appearance means only one thing: build on it for next year. That is, if their body will obey.
Megan Munce's magical 2009 season earned her a spot on the AVCA Honorable Mention All-America team and Mountain West Conference Setter of the Year honors. The Horned Frogs finished 27-7 that year, including a 3-0 sweep of Rice in Austin for their only NCAA win to date. TCU opened the 2010 campaign with sweeps in three of their first four games before its hopes for a return trip to the NCAA's took a devastating blow.
"I had no idea [what the diagnosis would be]," Munce said. "At that point I was just upset I couldn't finish the game, or would just be out for a few points."
Munce insisted to the training staff she could at least try walking on it to make sure she could not still play. Once told there was no way she was going to finish the game, she began to worry.
"That kind of hit me that it was going to be kind of bad," Munce said. "I had never considered me getting injured at all because it had never happened to me before."
It was a torn ACL.
Head coach Prentice Lewis said she saw some positive things out of the team in the aftermath of the blow.
"That was a very tough season in the same way as losing your quarterback," Lewis said. "I think the team did a great job in that game when she got hurt. We almost beat LSU, which is an outstanding program. It's one of those things where injuries are going to happen and you kind of just have to roll with them."
Munce's shot of redemption would be put on hold by the injury and ensuing medical redshirt, but the 2011 season opener proved to be well worth the wait. Led by Munce's 34 assists and 11 digs, her 14th career double-double, the Horned Frogs stumped future Big 12 rival Texas Tech, 3-1, in front of the then-second largest home crowd for a TCU game. Munce also reached the 100-ace milestone with two on the night.
Better yet, the team would head into the Big 12 on the right foot. A disappointing 15-16 finish to 2010 paved the way to a 25-7 mark in the Horned Frogs' final lap of the Mountain West. For Munce, a Costa Mesa, Calif., native, it also meant less opportunities for her family to see her at games.
"[My parents] went to San Diego and Las Vegas every year, plus it's a lot easier based on the MWC traveling schedule because you were either on the road or at home this week," Munce said. "If we were home one week, they could come Wednesday through Sunday and watch two games. It's a lot harder for them this year, but they came to some of the early tournaments and they're coming to scattered games throughout the year so that works."
Munce credits her parents, Bill and Joanne, for setting her on the track to volleyball stardom.
"They pushed me into a lot of sports, but obviously I enjoyed volleyball then," she said. "I did tennis, basketball, volleyball, swimming, and I guess I enjoyed volleyball the most and stuck with it. I did a bunch of camps and clubs and went from there."
Despite the many hours put into volleyball, Munce admits she was undersized for the right side in high school, but credits Lewis for seeing her athletic ability and versatility could provide a substantial role anywhere in the college game.
"In high school I didn't play the same position that I do now," she said. "In the recruiting process we got a little card from [assistant coach] Jason [Tanaka] and we contacted the school. I didn't know what I wanted to do and I didn't even know what TCU was. I don't think anyone in California at the time knew what TCU was because we were under the radar.
"I took my visit, and my dad wanted me to commit since I was so young. I was the first one on my club team to commit so I was so nervous. One day he said if I didn't commit he'd be really mad, and I did it and I'm so thankful he did that to me."
The stroke of good luck in finding the right school, especially one that she had never heard of, through unlikely scouting methods would translate into similar results on the hardwood. Munce played in all 32 matches and started 11 of them, which made her All-American 2009 season all the more mind-blowing. That season, she led the Mountain West with 53 aces to go along with 314 digs and 150 kills. Munce also topped her season average of 9.94 assists per set with 34 in the historic win over Rice.
"It was a shock [to be named an All-American]," Munce said. "I had never set before and was kind of thrown into that position. I wasn't really confident in myself at all, and I think just because of the older girls on the team who were experienced I set every game and they made me look good so I didn't have to do very much. I was completely shocked by that, really just because of my confidence level at that point."
As the only fifth-year senior on the roster, Munce acknowledges her leadership role but is quick to admit she is more of a strict mother hen rather than a nurturing one.
"That's definitely a good definition," senior Emily Kirby said. "I'm the nurturing type. She enforces the rules and makes the culture of our program and has an enforcer role on the court. She's the best player to set the intensity level."
Although she may be the oldest on the team, Munce has proved this year she still has plenty more in the tank. In a Sept. 15 sweep over Lehigh in Fort Worth, Munce recorded her 163rd career ace on the match's final point to break the all-time TCU record for service aces in a career.
"I had no idea [that I had broken the record]," Munce said. "I didn't really care much either as long as I was helping out the team. I knew serving is a big part of this team and aces are important, but I never knew anything about the record or anything like that."
Munce intends on graduating in December with a Communication Studies degree. Her immediate plans for the future are to go to Europe on an exposure tour in hopes of getting picked up by a professional team. But for the fifth-year senior who would not let an agonizing injury derail her hopes of a good career, chasing her dream is the top priority.
"I don't even want to think about working," Munce said. "I am not ready to do that yet."