Tori Hamsher is already in Engineering III. Why is that significant?

Hamsher is only a senior in high school.

The 17-year-old also happens to be a star volleyball player. In fact, Virginia Tech’s volleyball coach Chris Riley credited the 6’2” athlete as being “one of the best middle blockers in the country.”

Hamsher who attends Nazareth High School in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania recently announced her decision to attend Virginia Tech as an engineering student and to be on the varsity volleyball team. Even though some 10 universities were recruiting her, she said selecting Virginia Tech was easy.

She visited a number of the college campuses, but when she returned to Virginia Tech for a second time, Paul Torgersen, former president of the university who continues to teach in industrial and systems engineering, took her on a personal tour of the engineering college.

“Dr. Torgersen heard from the coaches that I was considering Virginia Tech’s volleyball team and that I wanted to study engineering. He is really interested in student athletes,” Hamsher said. Torgersen introduced her to Richard Benson, the dean of engineering, took her to the Ware Lab where student design team projects are housed, and provided her with some insight into the number of different majors within engineering.

"Dr. Torgersen was a tremendous help in the recruitment of Tori. I can't think of a better person to represent Virginia Tech. His experience and friendship can only help Tori to balance what will be a busy schedule,” Riley said.

Hamsher has played volleyball since her mother first “forced” her to try out in seventh grade, she said. She did not make the team that year, but since she found the sport captivating, she signed up for the club sports volleyball program. The following year she qualified for the eighth grade varsity team, and her athletic prowess improved continually through high school.

Her team’s record this year was the best in the history of Nazareth High School, and they finished second in the Lehigh Valley Conference. “We never even made it to the conference before this year,” she said. “And this is the first year our school’s volleyball team was able to bring home a banner for our gym.”

Hamsher credited the team’s success to everyone “being friends who get along really well. We basically play to win, and do what is best for the team.”

But when pressed into saying what she does best, she grinned, “Hitting slides.” Hamsher is known for slamming the ball with a slice after one of her teammates sets the ball for her. “It feels good,” she admitted.

The future Hokie knows that combining the requirements of being a varsity athlete and studying engineering will require a lot of time management. In high school, she said she was able to do well in her engineering and computer-aided-design courses, among others, because she brought her homework to finish while the junior varsity games were played, and she used her study halls to actually study.

Prior to this interview, she was headed to Las Vegas for the weekend where she was participating in a national invitational volleyball tournament. Since she had a research paper due the day she returned, the high school student handed it in early. “I knew it would not get done otherwise.”

Her strong competitive nature will extend to her engineering studies. “When Dr. Torgersen took me to the Ware Lab, that was really great to see. I am a hands-on person,” she said. The Ware lab houses more than a dozen student-led research projects for undergraduates, including the design and building of a human-powered submarine, a hybrid electric vehicle, and an autonomous vehicle for blind drivers. All of these projects have consistently done well in national and international competitions.

Hamsher said she hopes she will be able to work with a design team once she is on campus.

“We are excited to have such a great person and player join our Hokie family,” Riley said.

Hamsher is the daughter of Leslie and Brad Hamsher of Nazareth, Pa. Her parents have already booked hotel rooms in Blacksburg for the fall volleyball season.