Nashville, Tenn.- TSU sophomore outside hitter Naomi Wells can tell anyone what it feels like to encounter and overcome adversity. Even at 20 years old, she has already faced challenges that have forced her to miss the better part of two seasons, but she has rebounded to become one of Tennessee State's most potent scorers and best feel-good stories.
In 2009, Wells joined the volleyball team and as a freshman she posted 1.77 kills per set- good enough for fifth on the club. Her future looked bright, as she was expected to continue to grow as a player.
While Wells excelled on the court, off of it became a different story. Adjusting to college life was difficult as she left her family and friends behind in Montgomery, Ala. Away from home, Wells' grades began to slip from her honor roll status she maintained at Virgil Grissom High School to becoming academically ineligible at TSU.
"I thought that my world was coming to an end, at first. Then, coach Roulhac pulled me aside and told me that I was still apart of the TSU family. Everyone at TSU along with my family and God are the reasons that I was able to stay in school," Wells said.
Her newly given negative status meant that she couldn't play on the team during her sophomore season and would have to work twice as hard to get back on it.
"I had to go to summer school, and stay late after practice to make sure my game was still sharp. I had to buckle down and shift my priorities to academics, and the academic staff helped me a lot."
After studying and training to her fullest for over a year, Wells was finally poised to become eligible to play on the squad. She would be paired with Shaquita Williams to form one of the best offensive tandems in the conference.
The dynamic duo never came to fruition as Wells received the news that she and her boyfriend were to have a daughter, Aria.
"At first, I was scared [about having a daughter]. I knew that from that I point that I would have to work 10 times harder to be on the team, and 10 times harder than that to start."
The pregnancy forced her to miss her second season in a row, as her body and new bundle of responsibility sidelined her for a second consecutive season.
"[My freshman season] I had to work hard to get my grades up, but last season I had to get my body right. I spent a lot of time in the weight room and completely changed my eating habits. I told myself that my baby weight was not going to stay for long."
Many people would have given up on playing collegiate volleyball after two seasons off, but not Wells. She has come back to not only join the team, but to lead the conference in points and kills per set.
"Naomi has that star-player ability that every coach is looking for. She has the fire and the passion that doesn't come around anymore. She is everything that I thought she could be," Roulhac said.
Roulhac said that Wells' time is now and that the sky is the limit for her and the Tigers. It's a point of view that Wells shares too when asked about this team's ceiling:
"I'm just ready for that ring."
-- TSU TIGERS --