It was volleyball that led Tarleton State University’s Lauren Kersey to discover her passion.


She was 15 or 16, and her club team was playing in a "sitting" tournament with Paralympic athletes.


"After I played in that tournament — and, by the way, sitting volleyball is very hard — I realized I wanted to be part of that world, so I started looking into jobs that were involved in the Paralympics," Kersey said.


That realization gave her direction, and now she has a degree in biology and is working on a master's degree in prosthetics and orthotics.


"For the longest time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do," Kersey said. "I've done a lot of research and I've really fallen in love with it.


"Last summer I shadowed with a prosthetics company in Oklahoma and saw what I want to be doing on a daily basis. That really made me want to do it even more."


As a star for North High School in Norman, Oklahoma, Kersey was a four-year letter winner and team captain. She led the TImberwolves to back-to-back state championship games and, as a senior, a 27-4 record and a conference title.


Kersey agreed to a recruiting visit to Tarleton. One look at the Stephenville campus was all it took.


"I loved it here from the beginning," she said. "The campus is gorgeous, the atmosphere is great, and everyone will help you. You never feel like you're by yourself."


And purple is her favorite color.


Like the rest of Tarleton's student-athletes, Kersey is excited by the move to NCAA Division I. After being a nationally elite volleyball program in the Lone Star Conference, Tarleton joins the Western Athletic Conference as of this season.


"It's really cool to be able to say you're a Division I athlete," she said. "It's also a little nerve-racking because it's a new level of play. We've been a high Division II team, so I'm sure we'll fit right in D-I and the WAC."


Kersey plays on the right side and was part of the winningest season in program history in 2018, earning conference honorable mention status.


She also finished that year on the LSC Commissioners Honor Roll. She had 13 matches with double-digit kills, including 19 against University of Colorado Colorado Springs.


Here's a warning to other WAC teams: Working to improve her game is her motivation.


"I'm extremely competitive in everything I do," Kersey said. "I have to win. If I don't win I get very upset."


Winning. It's another of her passions.