By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Joplin volleyball coach Staci Saunders raves about Olivia Hampton’s talent on the court. However, Saunders said there’s a lot more to Hampton than her athletic ability.
“She’s just a great kid,” Saunders said. “She was a leader. She had a smile on her face, but she came to practice and worked her tail off every day. She has great work ethic. She’s a great girl who can flat out hit the ball. And she’s a player who makes everyone around her better.”
That combination helped Hampton land an offer to continue her volleyball career at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan.
“I would say the No. 1 thing about her is her attitude,” Southwestern coach Donnie Wallace said. “She’s a great kid, and that’s exactly the type of person we want in our program. She’s extremely talented and versatile, which is very important with how we play.”
Of course, attitude alone won’t make it at the next level. Hampton also has proven she can play. A three-year letterman at Joplin, she was the Eagles’ team MVP as a senior. Hampton also earned all-conference and all-district honors after leading the team in hits, kills and blocks.
Hampton led the Eagles to 24 wins this past season — a total Joplin hadn’t reached for about 10 years, Saunders said.
The Eagles’ middle hitter said Southwestern College is the right fit for her.
“It’s a small school, a small town,” Hampton said. “It’s a Methodist college.”
Hampton could play a variety of roles at Southwestern.
“It really just depends on how she can pick up on our offense, because it’s very different than what she’s used to playing,” Wallace said. “She can play middle. She can play right side. She may even play outside. That’s the beauty of her. She’s a tall athlete, and she’s very athletic.”
Wallace, who will begin his third season at Southwestern, hopes players like Hampton will help the Moundbuilders improve on last year’s 7-22 record.
“We’re extremely young and on the rise,” Wallace said. “I’m looking to fill a couple gaps. She’s going to be one of the people to fill those holes.”