For many collegiate athletes, picking a school can mean leaving behind family and friends to experience life in a new place. For Elon University volleyball freshman outside hitter Kam Terry, though, picking a school meant starting a new way of life.

Terry is originally from Marengo, Ohio, a village of less than 350 people off Interstate 71. The majority of the village’s residents live on farms, and many do not attend college. 

Growing up, volleyball was not Terry’s passion — she played basketball.

“I didn’t get into volleyball until about fifth grade,” she said. “I actually hated it the first time I played, so I quit, and then my mom forced me to go to tryouts in seventh grade.”

Although she agreed to try volleyball again, the sport was still not Terry’s only passion. She juggled basketball and softball as well. But when she reached high school, she knew that volleyball was her main focus. 

Terry was a four-year starter at Highland High School in Sparta, Ohio. The outside hitter set numerous school records, kills in a single season (517), kills in a single match (36) and aces (79). She was also named to the Division III All-Division, All-District and All-Ohio teams in both her junior and senior years. Off the court, she was named a scholar athlete and graduated at the top of her class.

As a junior in high school, Terry played at a showcase in Indiana. Elon assistant coach Tina Readling watched Terry compete and contacted her soon after.

“It was about three months before I committed,” Terry said. “It wasn’t that long.”

Terry knew she wanted to attend Elon as soon as she set foot on campus. The Southern setting and time spent with the team made her decision easy.

Terry has been a major contributor to the Phoenix offense this season. She currently sits fourth on the team in kills with 143, averaging just fewer than two kills per set. She is also fourth on the team in points scored, with 163.5.

As the season has progressed, Terry has found a rhythm. She has performed well recently, finishing three games in a row with double digit kills — 12 against James Madison University Oct. 24, 12 against the College of William & Mary Oct. 28 and 13 against the University of Delaware Oct. 31.

“She’s really providing a lot for our team,” said head coach Mary Tendler. “Earlier in the year, her consistency wasn’t there. It seems like in the last while here, she’s been really consistent match to match and looking really confident.”

Her transition has admittedly been a difficult one. Terry struggled with consistency early on this season, tallying kills in certain games but committing errors and not scoring points in others.

“It was pretty intimidating at first, being like, ‘There are 20-year-olds on my team, and I don’t know what I’m doing,’” she said. “The biggest thing was just getting my confidence up. [It] really helped when the team started supporting me more and I started getting really into it.”

Her breakout match came Oct. 8 against the College of Charleston. Terry finished with 18 kills, leading both teams.

In high school, Terry’s role was based on getting kills and staying at the net. Tendler has focused on developing Terry’s blocking to take advantage of the athlete’s height of 5 feet, 11 inches. So far this season, she has recorded 25 blocks, including a three-block performance against Kennesaw State University Sept. 12.

“It takes a while when you transition from high school to college,” Tendler said. “The biggest thing for her transition has been blocking. We’re asking her mentally to do a lot more blocking-wise.”

Terry has also made a difference for the Phoenix on the attacking end. She is currently fourth on the team in service aces with eight.

“It’s great experience for her, what she’s doing,” Tendler said. “Not just hitting and blocking, but when she goes back and serves, she scores a lot of points. She’s very valuable to the team.”

Though Terry has needed time to transition to the faster-paced game, she has had no trouble fitting in with the rest of the team.

“Everybody’s passion for the sport is something I haven’t ever experienced on a team before,” she said. “Even on my club teams, I don’t ever think there’s been that drive. We love volleyball, we’re here to play volleyball and that’s really nice that we all have that passion together.”