Die-hard Montezuma-Cortez High School volleyball fans remember Tori Pickens, who, from 2005-2009, smashed her way into local lore courtesy of four outstanding prep seasons.
Now four years removed from her high school graduation, the Panther standout is playing for Bethel College, an NAIA school in Kansas.
COLLEGE CAREER OFF TO SOLID START
Pickens performed admirably in a season that saw her team finish 9-21 overall.
As difficult as the season was, the experience proved valuable for Pickens, who shook off rust that accumulated in recent years.
“It was an up-and-down season,” she said. “It had been a long time since I played.”
THE LONG ROAD
Burned out after high school, Pickens elected to skip volleyball in college and pursue education at Dixie State College, where she spent the 2009-10 year.
Missing volleyball however, Pickens considered returning to the court before a 2010 car accident sidelined her for a year and a half.
“It was a year before I could begin working out like normal,” she said. “I didn’t think that I was going to be able to play after that.”
Pickens continued to involve herself in volleyball, coaching the Montezuma-Cortez High School junior varsity team in the 2011 season before taking a coaching job in Texas in 2012.
She then contacted Bethel College coaches early in 2013, and, after watching high school film, the staff offered her a position.
On growing up in Cortez, Pickens said solid coaching and hard-working teammates helped her become the player she is today.
“I was really lucky to come up with the coaches and the girls that I did,” Pickens said.
Pickens, currently studying athletic training and elementary education, is hopeful that youth volleyball players from Cortez will follow in her footsteps.
“Part of the problem here is that people play for a little bit, and they don’t play year-round. It’s something that you have to your whole heart into or it isn’t worth it.”