At the top of her game, on court and in the classroom
Written by Adam Reger
The volleyball arcs over the net, meeting the joined fists of a back-row player. As a setter lofts the ball toward the net, athlete Meagan Dooley tenses. An opposing player goes up for a “kill,” or spike. Dooley and a teammate leap, forming a wall with their hands. With a thunderous pop, the ball is blocked and goes careening back into the opposing court, bouncing hard off the floor.
As usual, team captain Dooley is in the middle of things.
A middle hitter on Pitt’s varsity volleyball team, she is nearly always part of the action. “When you play middle, you are jumping for every hit,” says the Pitt senior. In her three years on the team, Dooley has consistently been among the leaders in blocks, solo blocks, and kills. Already, early in the fall season, Dooley is the team’s leader on the floor, too. With plenty of games ahead, she’s averaging a .381 hitting clip, with 106 total blocks, 298 kills, and 14 service aces. She recently moved up to second on Pitt’s list of all-time solo block and total block leaders, distinctions that she takes in stride: “That’s what happens when I’m doing my job and helping my team win.”
At practice, while she bounces on her toes and slams balls across the net, the 6’1” student-athlete looks imposing. Yet Dooley’s on-court performance is only part of her Pitt strength. She has a 4.0 grade point average, which has helped the volleyball team win the Overall Top GPA Award three years in a row against Pitt’s other varsity teams. The team also has won the Department of Athletics’ Top Women’s Team Award for its academic success.
An education major, Dooley plans to teach special education, where she can help youngsters become their best no matter what challenges they may face. “I have always been a huge believer in the underdog, whether it’s in sports or in any other aspect of life,” she says. She knows a lot about winning. Dooley began the season collecting All Big East Preseason honors.
Back on court during practice, the players finish their scrimmage and divide into games of four-on-four. The court is wide open, and the kills come fast and furious. Dooley leaps from midcourt, fist cocked back, and pummels the ball. A diving player rescues the ball, and her teammate lofts it over the net. When the ball comes back to Dooley, she fakes another punishing kill attempt, then gently taps the ball over the net, where it falls untouched—another smart move for Meagan Dooley.