Big South "Musco Women's Spotlight" Feature: Becca Toor

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BigSouthSports.com) - The Big South Conference, in conjunction with Collegiate Partner Musco Sports Lighting, continues its monthly "Musco Women's Spotlight" feature.  This month's spotlight is Winthrop senior volleyball player Becca Toor (Rotunda West, Fla.), whose story actually began this past summer in Room 315 of the Simms Science Building on Winthrop's campus.

Toor has already garnered three Player of the Week honors in the first five weeks of the season.  The middle hitter leads Winthrop in kills, averaging 3.48 kills per set for a season total of 202.  She owns a .349 hitting percentage and has 54 total blocks.  The story below and the accompanying video recounts how the chemistry major spent her summer in the biochemistry research lab and what she discovered.  Toor also discusses her thoughts about her final season at Winthrop, what she does in her spare time, and the lasting memory she wants to make this season.

(Originally Published July 19 by Winthrop's Media Relations Staff)

Winthrop senior Becca Toor says she wants to leave a legacy both athletically and academically when she closes out her collegiate volleyball career this fall and then graduates next May with a chemistry degree.

The tall brunette from Rotunda West, Fla., simply stated, wants to be the best and has been working hard to make those goals become realities.  She says it takes a lot of dedication.

If you happen to visit the third floor of the Simms Science Building on the campus of Winthrop University this summer it is very likely that you will find Toor hard at work in the chemistry laboratory in Room 315.

She has been serving as one of Winthrop chemistry professor Nick Grossoehme's (pronounced GROSS-o-me) two student research assistants in a project funded by a $35,000 grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement that could lead to advancements in human medicine.

When she has not been in the lab this summer, the rising senior trades her white lab coat and protective eye goggles for a T-shirt and practice gear as she prepares for her final season as a member of the Winthrop volleyball team.

The 6-foot-2 middle blocker doesn't mince words when she is asked about her goals this year as a volleyball performer or as a student.  She is focused on being the best player in the Big South Conference and the top student-athlete on her team.  She also wants to close out her career with a championship ring and a perfect 4.0 grade point average in her final two semesters.  She was voted the Preseason Player of the Year prior to the 2011 season.

Toor, who is majoring in chemistry, plans on going to pharmacy school at either Florida or South Florida following graduation next May.  But before that day arrives, she has set her sights on helping her teammates win a Conference title and earning a trip to the NCAA tournament in November. 

As a junior, Toor emerged as one of the top performers in the conference and finished second in the Big South in attack percentage with a .329 average for overall matches.  She had an even higher percentage of .377 in 16 Big South matches to finish second.  Those figures played a big part in her selection to the 2010 All-Big South Second Team.   She wants more in 2011 and has her sights set on being voted the Big South Player of the Year and as the Scholar-Athlete of the Year.  She feels both goals are attainable if she works hard. 

Hard work doesn't scare Toor.  Rather than go back to her Florida home this summer, she decided to remain on campus to work on her game along with other returning players and to get valuable experience performing chemistry research.  She believes the work will pay off this year. 

What has a typical day been like for Toor this summer?  Busy for sure.  Toor rises for an early morning workout at the Winthrop Coliseum before heading to the lab where she puts in a 35-hour week. The late afternoon involves more volleyball workouts and conditioning before she wraps things up around 9:30pm. 

Put simply, Toor's research work is helping to find out how the organism -- streptomyces coelicolor -- regulates potentially toxic levels of metal ions in cells.  According to professor Grossoehme, every organism relies on metal ions to make cells work correctly.  However, he says if the metal concentrations are not controlled, the metal can become toxic and kill cells.  One of the possible outcomes on the research is finding a new way to produce antibiotics in a natural and efficient way.  As part of the research project, Toor has begun an independent project whereby she is developing a gene from the ground up.  "Through the use of Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), I am creating this huge gene that we find in streptomyces coelicolor.  My main strength is running PCR, which is cloning DNA," she says.

Toor says she likes working in the lab and wants to use the experience this summer to help her in case she goes into pharmaceutical research, depending on what track she pursues in pharmacy school.  "I have a lot of high hopes that this will further my knowledge about different fields that are out there.  I believe this experience is going to help me because he (Grossoehme) teaches me new things every single day and is guiding me in the right direction," she says. 

"If I can have my part of the project completed by the end of summer, then it can be included in Dr. Grossoehme's overall project that she says could lead to having her name listed in a published paper that her professor plans on writing when the research is completed.  Having your name mentioned in a published paper is just huge."

Grossoehme has been very pleased with Toor's work in the laboratory.  "Becca has been doing very well; in fact she has exceeded expectations.  Cloning tends to be very challenging, but she has just been phenomenal," he says.  

When mid-August rolls around, Toor will be totally concentrated on volleyball as preseason workouts get underway in preparation for the August 26 season opener and the beginning of the fall semester.  Toor is ready for the challenge.

"My studies are very important to me, but at the same time my team and volleyball are also very important," she says.  "It takes a lot of work to balance it out and finding the time to do my studies.  Not everyone is cut out to do chemistry and be a student-athlete, but I am trying to find a good balance to where I can make this next season mean the most."

Toor says that once the season gets underway, her volleyball and studies will take up most of her time.  "By the time I get out of practice around 6:30 and then get my studying completed, I usually won't get to bed before midnight.  I really won't have any free time and sometimes it's hard to find time to eat, but I've come to that realization since my freshman year, and for me it's all worth it."

Toor is anxiously looking forward to her final season and as the only senior with athletic eligibility on the team, she is already showing she can be a leader for what will be a rather young squad this fall.  "When I told the girls that I was staying here all summer, they all jumped on board.  They are able to understand how bad I want a Big South championship.  They see my work ethic and how hard I work."  She sees the 2011 season as one that will be over run by freshmen as seven newcomers will join six returnees and that makes her job as a leader very important.

While capturing a Big South title and putting a championship ring on her finger is at the top of her list, Toor says she wants to leave Winthrop being satisfied -- getting the best play out of myself and being honored with awards for what I accomplish.  "I want to be the best player in the conference and I want teams to know when I walk onto the court they need to be afraid.  I feel that I've improved a lot since last year and making first team all-conference is definitely one of my goals."

Toor will be closing out her college career under a new head coach this year as Julie Torbett, a 19-year veteran as a Big South coach at UNC Asheville, takes over for Sally Polhamus who recruited Toor four years ago.  "When we heard that Coach Sally was leaving, I probably took it the hardest because I had played under her for so long, but at the same time I welcomed Coach Torbett with open arms because I know she wants to win."

"I had a conversation with Coach Torbett shortly after she arrived and I told her that I don't want this to be a rebuilding year.  This is my last year so I was praying that we wouldn't get a coach who wanted to just come in and rebuild.  I've played against Coach Torbett for three years and I've seen her coaching style and how hard her teams work.  She wants to win now and I am very happy with that."

Whatever the future holds for Becca Toor, be assured that she will be ready for the challenge.

READ THE PREVIOUS "MUSCO WOMEN'S SPOTLIGHTS"
Lauren Garza, Campbell