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Early's Wood-Rush becomes school's first volleyball player to sign with college

Mike Lee
Special to the Brownwood Bulletin
Early High School's Tori Wood-Rush signs a letter of intent to play volleyball at York College in Nebraska on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

Even though volleyball opened the door, there’s more to the decision by Early High School senior Tori Wood-Rush to sign a national letter of intent Wednesday with York College in Nebraska.

In addition to receiving a volleyball scholarship to play for the Panthers’ NAIA Division II athletic program, Wood-Rush is receiving a scholarship to participate in York’s performance choir. She also is working toward receiving some academic scholarship assistance as well.

She plans to major in criminal justice with the hopes of becoming a criminal investigator and work for a state or federal agency.

Wood-Rush is believed to be the first volleyball player from Early to sign a college scholarship. Early began playing volleyball in 2013.

Her connection from Early to Nebraska began with Winterfest in Arlington, a praise and worship gathering where youth can connect with participating Christian colleges.

Early High School's Tori Wood-Rush became the school's first volleyball player to sign to play collegiately when she signed with York College in Nebraska on Jan. 27, 2021.

“She was a sophomore at the time,” said Gail Wood-Rush, Tori’s mom. “She filled out a card expressing an interest in playing volleyball. The last week of school last year (Tori’s junior year), a recruiter called and asked her more about volleyball.

“We went up to York College last fall in October, and she tried out for volleyball and the performing choir.”

Tori, who began playing volleyball in the eighth grade at Early, never imagined it might lead to a college opportunity.

“I just played basketball in the seventh grade,” Tori said. “In the eighth grade, I thought I’d try volleyball since all my friends were doing it. That next summer, I kept playing around with volleyball.

“I played mainly for fun. But after the recruiter called, I realized this could be a really good opportunity.”

At 5-foot-8, Tori eventually became a full-time volleyball player, playing all over the court before focusing on serving and some back-row action last fall as a senior.

“I like volleyball because you have to be focused,” Tori said. “You have to pay attention to where you are on the court. You have to know where you are at all times, or you’ll run into another player.”

York, which competes in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, plays both a fall and a spring volleyball schedule, according to the college’s website.

Tori participated in performance choir from the sixth grade through the ninth grade at Early, but she said the program was discontinued. So the opportunity at York College is a chance to reconnect to choir.

“I’m definitely excited at choir, but also a little scared because I may be rusty,” Tori said. “That’s to be expected since I haven’t done it for three years.”

Academically, Tori is looking forward to the smaller class sizes at York, which has an enrollment of about 650.

“I like the idea of going to a smaller college,” she said. “My mom went to Tarleton State, and that’s where I figured I would go. But Tarleton keeps growing (its current enrollment is about 13,000). You can go to class and it’s so big, your professor won’t know your name. The one-on-one atmosphere of a small college is what I definitely need to have more than anything.

“I’ve had other students at York tell me that I’ll know my teachers so well, they’ll invite me over to their house for dinner.”