COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The undefeated Ohio State women’s volleyball team begins conference play this week ranked No. 3 in the country — the highest ranking in program history.
Many members from last year’s successful team returned but they came back with a new mantra: Remember Why. But that saying is more than a mantra for sophomore Sarah Sue Morbitzer whose heart has always belonged to Ohio State volleyball.
“It’s in my blood!” she said with a laugh.
It started with the OSU Lil’ Spiker program when Sarah was just six years old.
“I just fell in love with coming to the camps,” she said. “Just growing up, I always wanted to come here and be a part of the Buckeye life.”
While Sarah Sue’s heart pulled towards volleyball from the time she was two years old, her actual heart struggled to keep up from birth.
“Two days old my parents found out I had a heart condition: Tetralogy of Fallot,” she explained.
Tetralogy of Fallot is a congenital heart defect where the heart structure has to be reconfigured for blood flow and soon after birth, Sarah had to have heart surgery to build a wall between the two ventricles.
“With Gore-tex! Which is in like ski jackets and stuff right now,” Sarah said with a giggle.
She also had to have another surgery to fix two of her heart valves, and down the road, when the time was right, a third valve would have to be fixed as well.
“My cardiologist said I actually chose the best sport for me because there’s not a lot of running and there’s down time,” Sarah said. “If I was a soccer player, it would be a problem!”
Finally, after years of work and training, Sarah Sue arrived at Ohio State as the first “Lil’ Spiker” to become a Buckeye. But she learned quickly her heart couldn’t keep up with the conditioning and training of a division one program.
“It really tore me down at first because I’m finally here, this is my dream, but I can’t really achieve this dream if I’m not my best,” she said.
In order to live out her dream, a 19-year-old Sarah Sue made the brave decision to get the final heart valve fixed in December 2020.
“It is scary! Surgery is scary. I was like ‘I want this. I want this to happen now. I want to be better. I want to be better for my teammates’ and I just did it,” she said simply.
And to commemorate the life-changing moment, she gave her third heart valve a name.
“I actually named my heart valve Valerie. Isn’t that good?” she added with a laugh.
Just a few weeks after surgery, armed with Valerie, Sarah Sue took the court for the Buckeyes first match of her freshman season.
“We think she’s a super hero!” said Ohio State head coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg. “For us, having her on the court shows how much you can actually give. She gives everything she has.”
That includes giving her team their motto for the 2021 season: Remember Why.
“Remember why I got that valve replacement in December. I wanna be here. I want to play,” she said. “Remember why we are Buckeyes. Remember why we do things for each other.”
It’s a motto that has worked. The Buckeyes have started the season 10-0 and are ranked third in the nation.
When you watch them play, after winning a big point, the players on the bench hoist Sarah Sue in the air as celebration.
“I’m just very grateful to be here and be healthy,” Sarah Sue said. “It has always been my destiny to play here. Always.”
With her Ohio State dream now a reality, Sarah Sue has a new one: to become a pediatric cardiologist and help other young people achieve their dreams.