Tara King was like most high school athletes: She wanted to play Division 1 college sports.
It probably was a realistic goal, but the Steamboat Springs senior volleyball player wasn't about to go against her instincts.
King signed a national letter of intent Thursday to play volleyball at Division 2 Mesa State College in Grand Junction, a mere three-hour drive from her parents and four younger brothers and sisters.
"I went to a camp at (the University of New Hampshire), which is D-1," King said. "I was so glad to come home to the mountains. I really like Grand Junction. At first, I wanted to do D-1, then D-2 came up. That was a backup."
King is one of four incoming freshmen that first-year volleyball coach Dave Fleming signed to national letters of intent.
Fleming, a former assistant at UCLA, said King had an influential ally -- UCLA junior and former Steamboat volleyball player Katie Carter.
"Katie Carter said, 'You have to check out this kid,'" Fleming said. "We're really thrilled to get her."
King visited Mesa State during a home match this season.
"I felt really confident," she said. "The girls and coaches made me feel welcome there."
King won't be the only setter on the roster, but she will have a chance to compete for a starting job.
"We told Tara she has a great shot to play right away, but we don't guarantee anything," Fleming said.
King was a two-year starter for the Sailors and helped lead Steamboat to a regional tournament berth last season and a district tournament berth this year. She is a 5-foot-8 setter who plays or has played basketball, hockey and tennis. She also runs track.
"We like how athletic she is," Fleming said. "She's super fast. She blocks well. One of the things we really like is (that) 99 percent of the balls she puts up are hittable. That's what we really like --hat she can do with a bad pass."
King joins an already successful program. Mesa State finished the regular season 22-6 and earned a bid to the Division 2 NCAA Tournament that opens this weekend.
"Tara has an opportunity to really shine where she's going," said Sailors coach Wendy Hall, who graduated from Mesa State. "She will be around players who are as passionate and as focused as she is."
King plans to major in elementary education.