PARKLAND, Fla. - A South Florida volleyball coach insists he's innocent after deputies say he tried to pressure one of his teenaged players for sex.
Broward deputies say they want to know if Michael Morales - of the Matrix Volleyball Club - stepped over the line with any of his other players who are from Palm Beach County.
Deputies say Morales set up a secret code with his alleged fifteen-year-old victim whenever they communicated by text message.
The team practices at the Sports Complex in Deerfield Beach.
Players reported for practice as usual, though coach Michael Morales wasn't here.
"I'm floored. I don't believe any of it. I don't know Mike to be this way," said Parette Gselle, of Parkland, a parent of a former team member.
Police say in October, after texting a fifteen-year-old for months about volleyball, the coach turned things to sex.
They say he asked her what she'd like to try and said it should be "fun and pleasurable."
Police say she responded, "if I don't do what you want sexually I can't train? Who else have you done this to?"
Then they say, she turned him in.
"She was very savvy, she knew enough to distance herself from him, she confronted him somewhat in the text messages, and then she contacted law enforcement which is the right thing to do," said Broward County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Dani Moschella.
Morales is well-known in volleyball circles in the tri-county area and may have worked with players from Palm Beach County.
"There could be victims in Palm Beach County," said Moschella.
He was interviewed on TV last year as he helped Boynton Beach's Steven Grotowski prepare for the Olympics.
Grotowski says he broke off their player-coach relationship when he learned of the investigation.
"It kind of leaves you with a sick feeling that something like that could happen," said Grotwoski. "It's really terrible that this is a part of life these days. I just hope it doesn't ruin it for everyone else. There are a lot of people doing good things."
Deputies wonder whether the publicity would lead other players to come forward:
"Of course detectives are asking the question, 'could there be other victims?' " said Moschella.
Morales has defenders who are a part of the team's hierarchy.
"Mike, as with all people in America, are innocent until proven otherwise. He maintains his innocence. He looks forward to the truth coming out. We support Mike as a family, " said Vicky Keating, from the Matrix Volleyball Parent Liaison.
Morales bonded out of jail on the computer child exploitation charge.
His attorney, Marc Zee of Broward County, says that there are no restrictions on whether he can continue to work with children.
He says that's up to Matrix.
Zee called the case "weak" and says Morales will fight the charges.
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