OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Even though she led the Purdue Boilermakers with 117 blocks this past season, Blake Mohler's defensive ability wasn't where it needed to be when she enrolled in the Big 10 school.
After being a four-year starter for Ocean Springs, Mohler still needed time to develop into a reliable starter in the Big 10 ranks. Sitting out the 2015 season to earn a redshirt wasn't easy, but having a different perspective fine-tuned her talents leading up to her first competitive season at the collegiate level.
"When I got to school, I wasn't very good at blocking," Mohler said. "I was across the net from Annie Drews, who was our top hitter. She led the team in kills by far. My goal in practice was to suffer every time. I think having that mentality and learning how to block one of the top Big 10 hitters definitely stepped in and really helped this year."
NET PRESENCE, BUT WHAT'S NEXT
The offensive side of the game had actually been Mohler's strongest asset, which was certified by the 2014 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year award that she received after averaging 4.9 kills per set her senior year at Ocean Springs.
"I really want to become a bigger factor on offense," Mohler said. "I had a decent hitting percentage (29.9%) for a middle blocker in the Big 10."
While junior middle blocker Danielle Cuttino led the team with 4.11 kills per set, Mohler's sole offensive focus for next season is to be similar to that of senior Faye Adelaja, whose hitting percentage (36.7%) ranked fourth in the Big 10.
Purdue, which was ranked in the top 10 when it first began to recruit Mohler, made the NCAA Tournament but was eliminated in the second round by Missouri.
FROM SUN TO SNOW
Purdue University is located in West Lafayette, Indiana, which is a little more than an hour northwest of Indianapolis and about a 12-hour drive from Ocean Springs.
It also features colder weather, which forced Mohler to buy her first winter coat.
"I stepped outside for my final this past semester, and didn't realize that it snowed all night and slid straight off my front porch," Mohler said. "I'm getting used to it. I'm adapting."
Also helpful to the Purdue adaptation was teammate Brooke Peters, who is listed as a sophomore but joined the Boilermakers volleyball team one semester prior to Mohler.
"Before we got to school, I had never met her before but we've been best friends ever since. We pretty much do everything together."
Peters and Mohler would probably both admit that their unique skillsets wouldn't have helped them to such a big stage had it not been for hours, days or months of hard work at the high school level.
"I woke up at 5 a.m. before school, worked out during school, had three practices after school, and you just have to push yourself and want to be better than everyone else."