By Chris Sokoloski
Michelle West signed a scholarship offer to play volleyball at Coker College and graduated from Georgetown High School, all with a matter of about a week.
"This us a really great opportunity to keep playing volleyball, which is the only thing I do," West said. "It seems my life has been school and volleyball."
West started playing for Georgetown High's team as a seventh-grader.
She admits she wasn't very good that first year, but said her ability, and love of the game, have increased over time.
"The competition is more intense and it's the only sport you can celebrate with your team in between every point," she said.
Playing in college became a real possibility after she joined a travel team, Grand Strand Juniors 18U Nfinity, two years ago. The squad includes girls from Georgetown all the way up the coast to Wilmington, N.C.
"She's super smart, really intelligent and she carries that onto the court," said Aly Pompeani, the coach of the Grand Strand team. "She went from 0 to 60 immediately and played a huge role on our team."
The Grand Strand girls practice and play tournaments from December through June. They won the Palmetto Regional championship last year and were fifth in the state this year.
"It blew my mind with the things she's accomplished this year," Pompeani said. "I wish I had eight of her."
West credits playing for Grand Strand with getting the attention of college coaches. "I think without the travel ball I would not have been playing in college."
"We're very excited that she's decided to join the program," Coker coach Todd Caughlin said. "I think she some of the physical attributes to do well."
West and Pompeani agree that sports makes the transition from high school to college a little smoother.
"You have 10 friends immediately, you're walking into a family," Pompeani said.
Coker was the first college West visited and her first choice.
"It was really small, the class sizes are small," West said. "Forty percent of the school are student-athletes so the school works around everybody's schedules."
"She's a very good student-athlete, for us being a student before an athlete is important," Caughlin said. "Not only do I recruit the talent of a person but the character of a person."
"She's a great kid," Pompeani said. "I know she's going to do great at Coker."
West will be joined on the Coker team by her Grand Strand teammate Loren Hill, who graduated from Waccamaw High last week.
"This year's recruiting class is going to plan an integral role in our transition into the South Atlantic Conference," Caughlin said.
West plans to study biology and then occupational therapy at Medical University of South Carolina.
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