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Koumas pitches her way to Coker

L-E grad signs on with Cobras

Posted: July 23, 2013 1:41 p.m.
Updated: July 24, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Surrounded by family, friends, teammates, a state senator and former coaches, Jessica Koumas made the transition from high school graduate to soon-to-be college student-athlete with one swift move of the pen.
With those in attendance at Hall’s Restaurant in Lugoff serving as a backdrop, the 2013 Lugoff-Elgin High School graduated completed a roundabout journey to Coker College by signing a national softball letter-of-intent with the Lady Cobras.
What made this signing unusual was the fact that Koumas did not play high school softball in either her junior or senior seasons. Instead, the right-hander played travel ball for the Richland County-based Palmetto Heat. And as for the connection between Koumas and the Lady Cobras’ softball staff, that came after she had made her decision to attend the Hartsville institution as a student, earlier this year.
The fact that she had been accepted as a student first, before getting the opportunity to play softball at Coker, made Monday’s ceremony all the more sweet.
“I always think of school before softball,” Koumas said following her signing. “That’s what my mindset was. I was excited to be accepted before getting the softball (offer.)”
Once on campus to tie up some loose ends, Koumas was asked if she might be interested in playing softball for the NCAA Division II program. That set the wheels in motion for Coker head coach David Hanna and assistant coach Ashleigh Jackson to start finding out as much as they could about Koumas and checking out the Palmetto Heat and its games.
In the span of less than two weeks, Koumas went from incoming freshman to recruit to signee. When the interest was found to be mutual on both sides, Koumas made her way to the Coker softball office. It was there that she was re-introduced to Jackson, the team’s pitching coach and a player whom Koumas had played against in travel softball circles.
Talking to someone she knew made Koumas more at ease as she learned more about the program.
“I felt more relaxed and that I could talk more and be more comfortable,” Koumas said of meeting with Jackson, who was filling in for Hanna who was not on campus that day. “I was really happy to see her.”
Koumas said she has been told that she will be given the chance to show her skills and compete for the starting pitcher’s post. She said part of the transition to playing college softball will be eased by the fact that while playing travel ball, she faced college players.
“It has helped me prepare a lot in knowing that will be the type of competition that I’m going to face in college,” she said of the travel ball experience. “It has helped me to prepare for where I want to be.
“It’s going to be a big change,” she added. “It’s going to be better competition and, I’m going to have to work a lot harder.”
Receiving the opportunity to play softball at the college level was the icing on the cake for Koumas who found all she was looking for a school when she came upon Coker.
“I was looking through colleges and as I looked into it more, I realized that was where I wanted to go,” she said of her finding the right fit academically and socially. “Then, I visited the (Coker) campus and said that this is where I needed to go.”
What Koumas discovered, as she looked into Coker more closely, was that she would not get lost in the shuffle at the school which has an enrollment of some 1,100 students. She would receive more individualized attention and would hardly be just another face in a crowded classroom which she felt could happen if she went to a larger college.
“I really like the class sizes; 24 versus 300,” she said of the difference between Coker and some other school.
“I really like the campus and how everything is centralized. It’s also closer (to home) than a lot of the other schools that I was looking at.”
It was while growing up in Kershaw County that Koumas started playing softball when she was 12. At the time, she was first an infielder before moving to the outfield with her father, John Koumas, as her head coach. Later, she set her sights on a new position.
“Then, one day,” she said, “I looked at my dad and said, ‘OK, I want to pitch now. It’s time for me to pitch.’”
From there, Jessica Koumas went to work with pitching coaches Bob Mays and Chuck Sturkie. Together, they helped to lay the foundation for a young lady who invited them to be part of one of the biggest days of her life in signing with Coker to continue her academic and softball-playing endeavors.
“It’s very exciting,” she said with a smile of relief after the paperwork on the letter-of-intent was complete. “I’ve always worked to get to where I’m at.
“I’m a very hard worker. And, going in to Coker, I’m going to keep working hard and try to keep improving a little more.”

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