S. Lenoir volleyball standout picks MOC
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 21, 2005 1:58 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- One visit to Mount Olive College and Kari Ham was hooked.
The small, community-like atmosphere reminded Ham of Deep Run, where she starred on the volleyball court for three seasons at South Lenoir High School.
But that wasn't the only thing that drew Ham to the Division II school that's become a regional collegiate power. She attended an hour-long workout and was treated like part of the team, which made a significant impression on her.
"I had a lot of fun," Ham said.
A two-time, all-Eastern Plains Conference selection, Ham made it official Wednesday afternoon. The 5-foot-9 outside hitter signed a national letter of intent to play for Mount Olive next fall.
Ham received consideration from Livingstone and UNC Greensboro. Head Blue Devils coach Lisa Smith also talked with Ham about attending Catawba College. But Ham preferred the picturesque Mount Olive campus and its proximity to her home in southern Lenoir County.
When she attended the workouts, Ham spent some time with middle hitter Anna Luft. She also absorbed every bit of information she could from head coach Sasha Gutor.
"He was hard to understand, but he's real nice and knows what he's talking about," a grinning Ham said. "When I was playing, he showed me something to do with my arms while I was hitting. The next hit was completely different ... it was better.
"I know he can make me an all-round better player."
Ham realizes that one minor change is just the tip of the iceberg when she returns to campus for preseason training this summer. Gutor will undoubtedly break down Ham's game, and build her techniques through drills and weight training.
"I know I have to work on everything," Ham said.
Ham helped lead South Lenoir to 53 victories and three appearances in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A playoffs. They finished runner-up to archrival North Lenoir in regular-season EPC play, but did knock off the Hawks in the 2002 tournament title game.
The daughter of Mike and Kathy Ham, Kari joins a program that made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance last season. The Trojans lose just one senior, libero Chasity Oxendine.
Mount Olive returns its starting lineup from a year ago and is expected to challenge -- once again -- for supremacy in the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference. They finished 24-13 last season and recorded the program's first-ever unbeaten campaign (11-0) at home.
In the past three seasons combined, the Trojans have amassed a program-best 81 victories, including 45 against CVAC opposition.
"I think they're real good," said Ham. "But they also get along well, which is important."
Ham isn't sure what her role will be next season.
"I hope I get some playing time, but I don't plan to start as a freshman," said Ham, who plans to pursue a degree in education and teach middle school math. "I've played everywhere before. He asked me what I really wanted to do and I said outside hitter.
"But I said I can do whatever you want me to do. He said 'good, that's what I wanted to hear.'"
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