F.S. Key graduate Lord continues to court success Volleyball switch is Winthrop's gain

October 12, 1992|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Tom Hill clearly remembers the day.

It was in the spring of 1987. The Francis Scott Key track coach -- and volleyball coach at the time -- was walking to the jumping area at track practice when he got a glimpse of a slender, young woman who looked to be about 6 feet tall.

Volleyball was a summer away, but that's what came to Hill's mind.

"What do you do in the fall?" he asked.

Sarah Lord, a freshman at the time, replied, "I play soccer."

The following fall -- to Hill's elation -- Lord found herself on the volleyball court. She's been there ever since.

"All my friends were playing soccer and I was just a freshman so I wanted to go along with the crowd," said the junior at Winthrop University in South Carolina.

"Once I played volleyball, there was no looking back," she said. "There's just something about volleyball that really caught me."

Hill said she was a bit "clumsy" at first. But by the time she was a senior -- two Monocacy Valley Athletic League selections later -- he knew she had Division I potential.

"She worked really hard at learning all aspects of the game and really had all the tools from the start," Hill said.

"And when she does something," he said, "she's the kind of person who does it right and does it well."

Lord found an even tougher challenge when she arrived at Winthrop on a volleyball scholarship -- trying to combine the higher level of play on the court with a tough class schedule.

"The college level is so much quicker and everyone is highly skilled, it really made high school seem like slow motion," said Lord, a junior.

"We spend much more time practicing," she said, "and with demanding classes, you really have to learn to budget your time."

Lord's forte through the years has been her strong blocking ability. In her third year as a starter at Winthrop, she has led the team in blocking. After 13 matches this season, she leads again with 27. She's also among team leaders in hitting with 42 kills.

"This year, I'm doing a lot more hitting, but nothing beats blocking," she said.

"I remember a match last year where I had three straight blocks against the same player," she said. "It was like bang, bang, bang. Seeing how frustrated they get is great."

"She's our middle," Winthrop coach Mark Cooke said.

"She always seems to get a hand on the ball and frustrates opponents," he said. "It's been exciting to see a freshman come in like that and hold her own often against more experienced players."

Cooke is in his third year as coach at Winthrop, joining the program the same year as Lord. The team is continuing to rebuild with a lot of young players.

After a rocky 2-11 start against some solid non-conference competition, the team is preparing for Big South Conference play set to start this weekend.

"We all learned together and it's good to see us building," Lord said.

"Things are coming, but it's taking time," she said.

Lord also is excelling in the classroom, carrying a 3.97 grade-point average as a biology major.

"In addition to her volleyball skills, she's also the best academic student we have in athletics," Cooke said.

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