BUCKHANNON – Hannah King has been through the wars for West Virginia Wesleyan volleyball.
The senior outside hitter is a critical leader for new head coach Nancy Wheeler as the team opens up their 2017 home campaign this Wednesday against Bluefield State after three weekend tournaments and 11 games on the road.
"I like the direction the team is going," King said. "We are very young, but we have a close-knit team, and our conditioning is at a high level. As we gain experience, I see this team being a team that comes on stronger as the season progresses."
King was an All-MEC Honorable Mention performer last season, and is one of the top returning players in the league this fall. At the start of the season, she boasted career numbers of 613 kills, 152 digs and 185 blocks. She will likely make a run at joining the elite 1000 career kills club later this season.
A native of Elkview, W. Va., King was an all-around athletic star growing up in northern Kanawha County. She was a four-sport standout as a youth athlete, competing in volleyball, basketball, softball, and track.
As a shortstop, she led her Elk Valley team to a state little league softball title when she was 14, and in basketball, she was an athletic forward, following in her mom's footsteps. After excelling for the Elkvew Junior High Elkherd, King moved on to stardom at Herbert Hoover High School.
At Herbert Hoover, King elevated her game on the track. She made the Class AA finals in the long jump at the Ssate meet. But it was volleyball where King made her biggest mark. She began playing as a sixth grader at EMS, and by the time she entered Herbert Hoover, she was an established star in the sport.
Herbert Hoover made the state tournament in three of King's four seasons, and the pinnacle came during her sophomore year when the Huskies made it all the way to the Class AA Final before bowing to a juggernaut Oak Glen squad.
A heavily recruited player, King took five visits to potential college suitors…but it was Wesleyan that won out in the end. She signed with the Lady Bobcats in the Spring of 2014.
"I just loved the atmosphere here when I came for my visit," King said. "When I left the campus, I was sure that this was where I wanted to spend the next four years."
As a freshman on a veteran squad, King learned the ropes of college volleyball during her first year.
While appearing in all but one match for a team that went 9-7 in the league and made the playoffs, there was a definitive learning curve for the talented recruit.
"I was really timid when I first came in as a freshman," King said. "We had some great blockers on our team and we faced a lot of talented players, especially players at the net. I found out quickly that I had to develop more mental toughness to be successful at this level, and I was able to grow as a player as that season went along."
After recording 110 kills, 42 blocks, and 13 digs as a freshman, King's numbers rose to 191 kills, 74 blocks and 66 digs as a sophomore in 2015. During her All-Conference year of 2016, King exploded to 312 kills, 69 blocks, and 73 digs.
Before turning in the stellar 2016 season, King had an epic battle off the court. Her community suffered a catastrophic flood in late June of that summer. It was an event that changed her life in many ways.
"It was just sickening to see it as it was happening," King said. "We were fortunate, to not lose our home, but we had a lot of family and friends that did. Everybody had family and friends that did. My cousin lost her home, and a lot of others close to us were affected. When you witness that kind of devastation to your community, it is hard to explain to anyone and make them understand. You are literally watching your hometown fall apart."
King spent that summer diving into helping with the volunteer efforts while also working a summer job.
Now in her senior year, King is excited to be a part of the beginning of Coach Wheeler's time at the helm of the program.
"Hannah King is a very determined athlete," Coach Wheeler said. "She has a great work ethic and high expectations from herself and her teammates. She is an awesome leader who pushes herself every day to improve her skills. She represents Wesleyan to the highest standards both on and off the court."
A political science major, King has had her heart set on being an attorney since she was young. Her mom worked for a legal firm and she was exposed to the courtroom at an early age.
"I was always intrigued to see everyone dressed up and working on a case and how the whole process works," King said. "Right now I am not sure what I am going to do. I may consider playing overseas if an opportunity arises, but down the road, I definitely want to still be working on something in the legal field. I think there is nothing quite as rewarding as working in a field where you can help others."
For now, King has an exciting senior year ahead of her as primary leader on a team with many young Lady Bobcats.