By JAMES COOK
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It all came together for Traverse City West senior Anna O'Hara.
The Titans volleyball standout found what she says is a perfect fit at St. Xavier University in Chicago.
She'll play for the Cougars' volleyball team for coach Bob Heersema, who has guided the program for 27 years, but it was the location and academics that attracted the tall outside hitter as much as the lure of collegiate athletics.
"Everything kind of fit: Small Catholic school. I wanted to go to the Chicago area for internships, so it worked out," O'Hara said. "And coach was recruiting me pretty heavily."
O'Hara wants to major in business, specifically project management. St. Xavier has a major in that precise field.
"Everything's happening in my life right now that I want to happen," said O'Hara, whose TC West team won districts Saturday and will play in regional action Tuesday at Grayling.
Homeschooled through eighth grade, O'Hara enrolled at West as a freshman and spent two years on junior varsity before breaking through to be a varsity standout the last two season and pairing with Katie Placek to give the Titans fierce hitters on both sides of the court.
"This has been a dream of mine since I started (playing) in fifth grade," O'Hara said. "I've been working for my whole career and my dream is coming true now."
TC West coach Emily Baumann said she thinks O'Hara will have little trouble finding success at the next level.
"I think she'll be able to play front row, like she does for us," Baumann said. "She's a strong hitter — a powerhouse. Against Cadillac, she pretty much carried us in the front row. She's come a long way this year. She's gotten a lot quicker with her arm swing and a lot smarter. She has a great potential to play."
O'Hara said she still has things to work on, of course, but Heersema liked her swing, aggressiveness and serving ability.
"You can always improve," O'Hara said. "Definitely quicken myself, my overall speed, my arm speed, my vertical. Coach is going to be able to help me a lot. He's a very good coach."
O'Hara's serving ability has gotten to the point where West has altered its game plan to feature it more.
"We've kind of changed the lineup a little bit so if we serve first, we always put her in first, because her serve is so strong," Baumann said.
At almost six feet tall, O'Hara will already start her freshman season as one of the taller Cougar players. St. Xavier was 31-12 last season and qualified for the NAIA national tournament and won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference the year before. This season's team is 16-13 so far, but doesn't have a single senior on the roster and has won four straight matches heading into this week's CCAC tournament.