Breaking up was hard to do for Annie Kim, but getting back together has been that much sweeter.
Kim and volleyball are together again, a harmonious reunion that is commencing at Irvine Valley College, where the Lasers are ranked No. 18 in the state and Kim is a big part of it. Her play in IVC's victory over No. 7-ranked Fullerton earlier in the week was pivotal at a pivotal point in the season.
A 5-foot-8 outside hitter, Kim had 15 kills, three blocks and two aces while hitting .320 in the match.
"Annie's one of the ones that plays with a lot of fire, a lot of emotion," IVC coach Tom Pestolesi said. "She's one we can feed off of. And she's really athletic, really explosive. She can do some pretty spectacular things."
Kim was a three-sport star at Gabrielino High in San Gabriel, playing volleyball, basketball and track, and earned a scholarship in volleyball to Cal State Los Angeles. But her collegiate career almost ended before it even got started.
Kim dislocated her left knee in a preseason practice during her freshman year in 2008 and had to redshirt. She played the next year at Cal State L.A., but then came to a crossroads in her life, and ultimately decided to leave Cal State L.A. and give up her scholarship so she could find herself as a person.
As it turned out, she discovered who she was, what she wanted and also found that volleyball should be a part of it.
"I gave it up because I was struggling," Kim, 21, said. "After the injury I struggled to get my confidence back as a player. I just wasn't my old self. I rehabbed for a year and it just never came back.
"All I did was play volleyball, I went to school and played volleyball. I needed to do something else, I just wasn't happy. It was the first time in my life I wasn't happy playing volleyball, and that said a lot."
Kim transferred to UC Irvine and discovered she had a passion for writing. She's majoring in literary journalism with a minor in education and hopes to become a high school English teacher.
"The reason I went to UCI was to find who I was outside of volleyball, because all I did in high school and growing up was play sports," Kim said. "I was always the kid with the ball and I wanted to go to UCI to find out what else was there besides sports."
Now, she's on track to graduate from UCI next June, and no, that isn't a typo.
Kim is still a student at UCI, while also attending IVC. After transferring to UCI she realized how much she missed competitive volleyball and wanted to join the Anteaters, but was told the roster was full.
So at the urging of a couple of friends who played for IVC's men's volleyball team, Kim decided to play at the community college level, and that meant taking on a full load of classes in order to be eligible.
Needless to say, Kim is busy attending two schools full-time, playing volleyball and also working two part-time jobs coaching basketball and tutoring high school kids.
"Honestly, I'm kind of struggling a little bit right now," Kim said. "These past couple weeks I've felt the full-blown workload. I seriously don't have time for anything.
"I've always been busy, but the difference between busy now and busy before is that now I'm truly enjoying everything I'm doing. I have a passion for everything I'm doing. It's what keeps me going. I'm learning every day and I'm doing things that I want to do."
Even though she will graduate next June, she still will have one year of athletic eligibility left, and Pestolesi's goal is to get her a scholarship where she could play volleyball and work on a post-graduate degree.
"That's the big goal, that's the goal I'm trying to reach," Kim said, and Pestolesi doesn't see any reason why Kim won't get there.
"When we start talking about having Annie Kim go play for them, even though it's only for one year, I know there will be schools that want her," Pestolesi said. "She's really a good example for our kids [at IVC]. She's already where we want all of our kids to be, at that's at a four-year (college) getting a degree."
For now, though, Kim is intent on helping IVC challenge for the Orange Empire Conference title and maybe even a state crown. And the Lasers, who are 7-3 overall and 3-2 in conference after sweeping Saddleback Friday, are happy to have Kim on board.
"Her schedule is so cramped I think it affected her the last couple weeks, but she's been able to line things up better and manage things better now, and I think that helps her relax a little when she comes to the gym," Pestolesi said. "She got her mojo back."