In just the first semester of her freshman year, Tori Harper has tackled everything from moving from coast to coast to growing up to developing a pivotal role on the Georgia volleyball team.
The 6-foot-2 Reno, Nevada opponent has hit the ground running and is quickly becoming a valuable defensive asset for the Bulldogs. At 82+, Harper has risen to second overall in the team leaderboard for blocks, behind only the impressive group of senior-junior middle blocker Sophie Fischer.
In Georgia’s five-set win over Arkansas in early November, Harper hit her season-high for blocks with eight sets.
Just months earlier, Harper began teaching in a new state and city well over 2,000 miles from her hometown of Reno. Despite the great distance, the small town still has a big impact on them. Known as “The Greatest Little City in the World”, Reno couldn’t be more of a contrast to Athens.
“It’s very different,” Harper said. “It’s like a desert and so small, and having such a community has changed me. The people I met changed me. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t live in Reno.”
Some of the people who have impacted her life are her family as Harper is the youngest of five. Division I volleyball is apparently in Tori’s blood, her older sisters Karli and Shantraie both play at Siena College in New York. Harper broke with the family mold by continuing her volleyball career in Athens, but her sisters’ influence and fighting spirit stayed with her as she watched them grow up.
“I learned from them, but I also wanted to compete with them,” added Harper. “They push me to be the best that I am.”
But here in Athens, Harper has found her second home and a group of teammates who double as her sisters-in-law.
“Away from home, they are my family. I see them as my sisters,” Harper said. “I’m just so excited to see her every day. When I’m having a bad day, they lift my spirits. I am very happy to be here.”
The same community and family values Harper gleaned from Reno, her sisters and her teammates were what drew her to the Georgia volleyball program in the first place.
“It’s the community,” Harper said. “When I came in here the coaches were amazing. The players, you think since I was young, would tell me what to do, but they are very hospitable. They took me under their wing, they are great people.”
Now Harper is under the tutelage of Tom Black, Georgia Volleyball’s head coach.
“Tori is one of our most competitive players, which is saying a lot, and just a tremendous learner,” said Black. “We were excited about her career here, but she exceeded our expectations. I am excited to see where she can go and where she is helping to complete this program.”
Among her teammates, Harper also draws unique advice from Fischer and Evans. Both players have emerged as obvious team leaders with their consistently impressive performances this season. Harper often combines defensive powers with Fischer, frequently working to set Evans up for a kill.
“Sophie and Kacie are two great characters on and off the field,” said Harper. “Being able to be with them, walk with them and hit with them has taught me so much. They make me a better player.”
During her time off court, Harper works on her foundation courses as an intended business major. Inspired by her mother, Harper wants to work somewhere in business or human resources.
Harper is also learning to adjust to life away from her family. According to Harper, her biggest challenge isn’t off the grid yet, but in approaching adulthood.
“I have to make sure I eat, and I have to be here on time,” Harper said. “I really learned a lot about how to live without my mother.”
Though adjusting to the college year as a college student can be difficult and at times uncertain, Harper’s goals for her time in Georgia remain clear.
“I want to be one of the best blockers for volleyball here,” added Harper. “I just want to be successful from there and just keep growing. I want to keep growing and see if I can play volleyball abroad.”
Tori Harper’s ceiling is enormous, on and off the court. In just a few months with the program, she has used her lessons from home in Reno and those close to her to earn a spot in Georgia volleyball. She has started to find her niche. She’s second on the team in blocks, and her freshman campaign isn’t over yet. Harper is a force and it’s just getting started.