OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Ocean Springs high school junior Blake Mohler is in a volleyball family. Her cousin Olivia played for South Alabama and is now playing professionally in Europe. Her younger sister Julianna plays the same middle blocker position on the court but for the middle school team. But little did Blake know when she first began playing the sport in seventh grade that she'd be good enough to play volleyball in the Big 10 Conference.
"She's got a great drive for the game," Blake's father Jeff Mohler said. "She wants to improve on the game every day that she plays it. That's very rewarding from a parent's standpoint to witness and watch your child continue to try to improve."
"My aunt coaches at Gulfport and she wanted me to try out but I was like, 'eh I don't know,'" Blake Mohler said. "Then once my best friend told me to try out, I said, 'eh what could it hurt?'"
Her best friend is Elizabeth Hurring, who is better known as 'Liz'. Blake and Liz describe their relationship as if they were sisters and the memories keep growing. They were even on the homecoming court together this year.
"Being able to share something with your best friend is something so special," Hurring said. "Last year we were able to be on it with each other and then this year they changed up the voting. Once we got on there again it was an honor to share it with your best friend. It's just awesome."
"They're inseparable," Blake's mom Kathy Mohler said. "They finish each other's sentences. It's truly, truly a great friendship.
"They can read each other's minds without even saying a word on the court and off the court. It's just a really, really good friendship."
Blake also plays varsity basketball. As you can imagine, she's also good at that. Playing volleyball, she's averaging nearly six kills per set this year, compared to just two kills per set as a sophomore. That drastic improvement is a reason why she's committed to play college volleyball at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., after a mentally draining recruiting process.
"It was very stressful," Blake Mohler said. "There were nights where I would sit there and cry because I was so stressed. It got pretty stressful at the end when it came to a week before I had to decide but it all worked out."
Blake was offered a scholarship from Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn. Stanford was her first choice but the Cardinal volleyball program never gave her a scholarship.
However, Purdue was Blake's second choice and clicked well with the other recruits on her unofficial visit earlier this year.
"We're certainly a Southeastern Conference family," Jeff Mohler said. "We enjoy the southeast but we certainly didn't want to hold Blake back. This is a goal she's set. She's set it very high. She went after it and she achieved it. We'll just have to adjust ourselves to accommodate."
"Blake has been a leader from day one," Kathy Mohler said. "She's been a very independent child. In fifth grade she flew to the people world leadership in Washington by herself.
"It's going to be tough [with Purdue being more than 12 hours away], but we're very proud of her and it'll all be worth it."
"When she called me and told me that she committed, I was screaming with her," Hurring said. "Just seeing your best friend succeed is awesome. We share the same goals and we love winning. We do not like losing and will never accept it.