Grand Junction When it comes to volleyball, Tara King found out her mom was right.
"In seventh grade, we started school sports," King recalled. "I went to a football game, because my dad was a quarterback in college. I came running home with the papers and gave them to my mom, and she looked at me like I was crazy and was confused. She just ripped them up, put them in the trash, and said, 'You know what's a cool sport, is volleyball.'"
King balked at first.
"I thought it was girlie and not a real sport," she said. "I grew up on basketball, football and hockey. Volleyball seemed almost like cheerleading. I wanted to play football, but my mom basically told me I was going to play volleyball."
Good idea, mom.
Once King got involved with volleyball, her talent in the sport translated to an outstanding three-year varsity career at Steamboat Springs High School from 2003 to 2005. She continued as Mesa State's starting setter this season. King chose Mesa after attending a volleyball camp there while in high school.
"I realized it was high-level volleyball. Then I went to a Division I camp back east, and it wasn't even the same level," she said. "That's when I decided I thought I'd go to a good Division II school with a chance to win a national championship with a good coach."
At Mesa, King quickly established herself. As a freshman in 2005, King played in 40 games and was second on the team in assists, averaging 5.4 per game.
Last year, she was forced to the sidelines as a medical redshirt because of a car accident.
Now King's game is as strong as ever. Her team-high 8.3 assists per game is among the best in the position in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. More importantly, King has helped the Mavericks maintain at least a share of first place in the RMAC's West Division. Mesa State is tied with Fort Lewis at 5-1 (7-6 overall).
King said the main difference this year is that the team comes first.
"Honestly, everyone got sick of the drama. No one wanted to be on a losing team that hated each other. We just figured out how to come together as a team. Everyone put their differences aside and did it for the team, because no one was having fun."
And the game's still fun for King and the Mavs, despite a grueling schedule that has had them playing on the road for most of the year.
"You get used to it because you have to. Sitting in the van for a long road trip definitely makes you stiff," King said. "It's hard to keep up with everything else - school and life. You feel like you don't have time to do anything. But it's nice to beat people in their house, though."