By ANDREW YOURELL
It’s Thursday night, and most of Durham’s college residents are out celebrating Thirsty Thursday.
But, somewhere, UNH senior volleyball captain Tori Forrest is studying. She might be in the Peter T. Paul College building, reading about business accounting in preparation for her spring internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the most prestigious accounting firms in the world. Or maybe she’s in the brand new Watkins Center for Student-Athlete Excellence poring over notes on the University of Maryland Baltimore County defense. Whatever the material, the explanation for her diligence is simple.
“I like being the best,” Forrest said.
According to coaches and teammates, anything less than being the best won’t cut it for the two-time captain. As talented a player as Forrest is on the court, her intangibles are what coaches and teammates admire most.
“Tori really brings a maturity to the court,” head coach Jill Hirschinger said. “She makes everybody around her better. No matter what team you put her on, the people that are on the court always play better. She gives them confidence, she gets them excited about playing.”
“Whether it’s in a friendship, as a co-captain, or as a teammate, she gives you everything that she has, and she wants you to give it back in return,” fellow captain Madison Lightfoot concurred. “She almost commands that of people.”
The fact that Forrest’s intangibles are the first thing that those close to her realize is not a knock on the measurable statistics. Make no mistake; Forrest is one of the most talented players in the America East conference.
In her freshman campaign, Forrest earned a nod on the America East All-Rookie Team. Instead of a sophomore slump, Forrest took the next step, earning her first All-Conference First Team recognition. Last year, as one of the captains on the defending champions’ team, Forrest repeated the feat and this year she’s poised to make a third All-Conference Team appearance after surpassing the 1,000-career kill mark in September.
“If you watch when she plays, she’s a point scorer; she may not hit it hard every time, but she always scores points,” Hirschinger said. “She knows what defense the other team’s in, knocks ‘em off balance, scores a point. She either hits or tips, but she can just play across the net, and beat people.”
And with a captain who routinely beats those across the net, while making the five teammates she shares the court with better, it’s no wonder the Wildcats are enjoying a long string of success. The ‘Cats are the two-time defending America East champions, and they aren’t slowing down to make friends on their way back to the top of the conference hierarchy.
Forrest, whose 1,000th kill put her eighth in UNH history, has been a huge part of the team’s success so far, as her 197 kills this season have raised her career mark to 1,153. Don’t expect the outside hitter to take any more credit than she’s due, though.
“I don’t think I’m the hardest hitting outside, I don’t think I’m the highest jumper on the team by any means,” she said. “I think I just do a good job connecting people on the court and trying to make everyone else around me better.”
For all she’s done on the court, Forrest’s greatest accomplishments have come in the classroom. The Powder Springs, Georgia native has made the America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll three years in a row. Last year, she was awarded the prestigious honor of being the America East Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“It was a real privilege to win that award, I was surprised,” she said. “It’s a lot, you know, it’s a lot of long nights in the library, a lot of time management.”
Forrest makes sacrifices to ensure she’s at her peak on the court and in the classroom. Oftentimes she foregoes the social atmosphere of Durham; other times, it requires skipping sleep.
“She’s one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met,” Lightfoot said. “Ever. Whether it be in volleyball or in the classroom, she just works hard and she pushes you to do the same.”
Forrest, Hirschinger said, is a prime example for young players to look up to—she gives her all in practice and teaches rookie players good time management skills. Coupled with Forrest’s desire for a successful post-volleyball career in the business world and how seriously she takes her classes, the head coach said she’s not surprised when she finds her captain in the library late at night.
However, Forrest sees her late-night romance with academia a little differently.
“To be honest, I just love studying,” she said, laughing as she elaborates. “That might sound a little bit nerdy, but I like it.”
Forrest is doubling in business management and accounting. She dreams of becoming a CPA for one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, a dream that became one step closer to reality when she accepted the spring internship at PwC.
America East foes shouldn’t rest easily when they hear Forrest talking about her post-graduate career. She’s made it clear that she and the team still have business to take care of on the court as the team looks to clinch its third consecutive America East Championship.
The road to the top continues for Forrest and the Wildcats on Friday when UMBC comes to town for a 7 p.m. tilt in the Lundholm Gymnasium.
Forrest dominates court and classroom
By ANDREW YOURELL