Otto-Eldred Junior/Senior High School is a small school in McKean County, that includes residents from Eldred, Eldred Township, and Otto Township. This small school district has just north of 600 children in the entire school district. While this school may be small, the Lady Terrors volleyball program plays far from that. This program is filled with young women who play the game with such heart and passion, and this passion begins with head coach Jame Thomas.
Thomas has been a volleyball coach for several years, and his daughters Taylor and Camryn Thomas have both gone on to play college volleyball. His oldest daughter Taylor enjoyed a great four-year career at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, Ohio, while his youngest daughter, Camryn, just completed her freshman season at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
2017 brought a lot of attention to both Camryn and her father, Jame. They had a perfect regular season and unblemished record heading into the state volleyball tournament in Class A. After winning their first game in states to move to 24-0 on the season, the Lady Terrors fell to the eventual state champions Maplewood in the state quarterfinals. It was a historic season for this extremely talented team, and this kind of exposure along with playing a lot of travel volleyball allowed for her to get noticed by numerous colleges in the sport of volleyball.
She was a four-year letterwinner, four time league all-star, two time league MVP, won a district MVP, was named all-state, and accumulated over 1000 kills in her career. Thomas was not a one-sport athlete, however. In basketball, she was team MVP 3 times, All-District, and was a Big 30 All-Star. In softball, Thomas was named both an offensive and defensive MVP while also being named a Big 30 All-Star. Lastly, in track and field, Thomas was named team MVP, league high jump champion, and set the school record for high jump as well.
She credits her success in the sport of volleyball specifically to beginning the game at such a young age. In fourth grade, Thomas began her career in the AAU circuit which proved to be a great way to gain exposure and build relationships with college scouts and coaches.
In fact, her favorite memory playing volleyball to date came from her travel volleyball days when she traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to compete in the Junior National Volleyball Championships.
“We stayed for one week and played two or three games each day,” she recalled. “Spending this time with my teammates and family, riding bikes and walking around Minneapolis, and playing volleyball against some of the best teams in the country will forever be one of my favorite memories.”
While Thomas to attend Duquesne, she had several options on where she would continue her academic and athletic career. After receiving offers from nearby schools like Pitt-Bradford and Thiel College, Thomas knew she had the option to play close to home. She also drew interest from St. Leo University in Florida and the University of California Riverside. After receiving interest from Duquesne and weighing all the factors including proximity to home, closeness to her older sister, and the education she would receive, Thomas knew that being a Duke was the best option for her future.
Thomas has decided to major in International Security Studies because she is interested in other cultures, languages, and countries. This field allows her to learn about what makes each part of the world unique while also understanding what each place can offer in the grand scheme of the world economy. While Thomas has accomplished a lot in her life to date, she knows none of her success would be possible without the endless support of her family.
“My family has definitely had the biggest impact on me both academically and athletically,” she said. “My parents always stressed the importance of school and my grades. They made sure I were to work hard in the classroom, as well as on the court and field. My sister played volleyball, basketball, and softball in high school and went to play volleyball in college. Watching her made me want to focus on volleyball and eventually play it in college.
“Giving it your all at something was a recurring theme in my family. If you did not work hard to do your best, whether it was on a test, at practice, or in a game, then there was no point in doing it at all.”
And while Thomas has faced her fair share of adversity throughout her sports career, it paled in comparison to what she faced last fall when she lost her mother, Inge.
When speaking about the impact her mom has made on her, Thomas said, “I would just like to mention that I would not be the athlete I am today without my mom. She was at every game no matter the distance. She supported me through every win and every loss. She never failed to remind me every so often of how proud she was of me.
“My mom always believed in me when everyone else doubted my dream of playing at the D1 level. She was my biggest fan. My mom will always be my hero and I will be forever grateful for her. Every lift, practice, and game, I give my absolute best for her. Everything I do is to make my mom proud.”
Thomas enjoyed a solid freshman season as a middle blocker and also playing the right side of the floor which was new to her. She racked up 89.5 points, 63 kills, 37 digs and 42 service points in the opening act of her college career, including a season-high 12 kills and 14 points against VCU.