Christa Harmotto, a 2005 graduate of Hopewell High School, was named to the final roster for the US Olympic Volleyball team that will compete in the London Olympics. She has been a part of the national team since she graduated from Penn State University in 2009 after a four year career where she was a two time first team All-American selection, and three time All-American. At Penn State, she was part of four straight Big Ten titles, consecutive NCAA titles and an undefeated season in 2008. During her career at Hopewell, she was the 2004 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year and was a two-time high school All-American. She also led her high school team to an unprecedented 59-0 record versus WPIAL opponents and a 103 match winning streak against section opponents during a four year period between 2001 and 2005.
Among Harmotto's many accomplishments was she was part of the 2004 Women's Jr. National team that won a NORCECA championship in Winnipeg, Canada. She was also named the Beaver County Times, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and Pittsburgh Post Gazette female athlete of the year after her senior year in 2005. Her Hopewell High School team won WPIAL gold in 2002, and 2003, and in 2004 went undefeated in winning the section, WPIAL and PIAA titles, even winning every tournament they entered leading up to the playoffs. She also was honored to be named one of only four freshman ever to be named first team Big Ten. In 2007, she was named the Big Ten player of the year, and was named to the NCAA Championships all-tournament team.
In addition to her travels across the United States, Harmotto has been a part of National Teams that have traveled to Canada, Turkey, China, Brazil, Thailand and many others. During the off season from the US National Team, Harmotto plays professionally in Italy for Liu Jo Modena. After the Olympics and US National season, she intends to continue to play for Modena.
Christa's parents and family are very proud of her as well. "We are very excited, it's wonderful," said her mother Connie after hearing her daughter made the Olympic team. "After she made the Jr. National team after her sophomore year, we started to realize how good she could be," Connie responded when asked if she ever imagined her daughter going this far in volleyball. When asked if they were headed to London to watch her play, she said "We're all so proud, we wouldn't miss it. All four of us are going, my husband Rob, and our sons, Nathan and Nolan will be there as well."
Now Training in near Newport Beach in California with her Olympic teammates, Harmotto took time out from her busy schedule to talk with MSA Sports in an exclusive interview. The following is the conversation we had.
MSA: Congratulations on making the Olympic team, what was your reaction when you found out ?
Harmotto: It was basically a four year try out to reach this goal, the journey it took to get here, all the tournaments, the travel, and hard work, its kinda cool to sit back and reflect on it all.
MSA: We talked to your mother and she told us how proud the family is of you, I know family is a big part of your life.
Harmotto: My family is the first people that come to my mind. It's great to share this part of my life with them, my family is one of the best blessings I've ever received, they really helped make this all work for me.
MSA: Lets go back and talk about your High School career at Hopewell. What sticks out to you.
Harmotto: I remember in Junior High coach Terry Borkovic got a bunch of us basketball players to try out for Volleyball. I gave it a try and fell in love with it then. Coach Borkovic and Coach Brian Begor from my club team really invested a lot of time in me.
MSA: During High School you also got to play on the Junior National Team, what was that like ?
Harmotto: It really planted the seed that I could do this, I knew that the next level was possible.
MSA: Talk about why you chose Penn State to continue your education and Volleyball career.
Harmotto: When I stepped on campus the team, coaches and players were like a family. That was important to me. Coach Russ Rose and others wrote me hand written letters during my recruitment, that meant a lot to me that they cared so much. I knew its where I wanted to be.
MSA: Tell us about your college volleyball experience.
Harmotto: The game gets a lot faster than in high school, it took time to adjust, the academics as well. If I didn't keep up on them I wouldn't have played so that had to come first. I also as I've said received so much support form the extended family I had up there, my friends, the boosters, everyone was one big family.
MSA: If you were to talk to high school kids about recruiting and how to pick a school what would you say ?
Harmotto: I'd tell them you really have to want to be there, that's your family for 4 years. I would ask them would you want to be there even if sports wasn't involved.
MSA: Talk to us about all the hard work you put in to get to where you at.
Harmotto: When I was young you play and don't really think about it, but as you move up in competition it becomes more of a mental thing. You have to push yourself. I always took the mentality that someone else out there was working as hard as me, that's what always pushed me. When I accepted my scholarship to Penn State, they sent me a conditioning packet. My brother Nate and I would go to the high school track and run. We really pushed each other to get better.
MSA: You play professionally during the National team off season, tell us about that experience.
Harmotta: I play in Italy for Liu Jo Modena. Its not as big a city as Rome or Florence or others. Its a smaller city it has the true authentic feeling of Italy.
MSA: We have read where you talk about having three families. Tell us what you mean by that.
Harmotto: Well I'm from Hopewell and that's where my brothers and parents are, I have everyone from Penn State, of course all of my teammates and friends in Modena, and well I guess you can say four because here in California is where we train and I have so many people I can count on here as well.
MSA: So God and family are everywhere in your life.?
Harmotto: I wouldn't be in the position I'm in without my relationship with God. Its incredible to experience that and have so many people in my life who care.
MSA: You have mentioned former Olympian and Beaver County native Lauren Williams as someone you looked up to.
Harmotto: She is an inspiration to me, I remember sitting on the coach at home watching her and thinking if she could do this so could I. It really motivated me.
MSA: Your one of a long line of Hopewell graduates that have gone on to accomplish big things on a national level. Tony Dorsett, Paul Pozlusney and recently Rushell Shell to name a few. Is there something in the water there ?
Harmotto: Seeing their pictures in the hallways, I was fortunate to have people to look up to. Seeing success ahead of you motivates you. My family grew up side by side with the Pozlusney family, so I saw how good they were and how hard they worked.
MSA: In preparing for the Olympics have you sought any advice form anyone on how to prepare?
Harmotto: Well, Daniell Scott who will be in her 5th Olympics, is my room mate. We talk about the pressure and how to deal with everything. The Olympics are just like every other national tournament we play, except this is on the world stage, there is so much more media, and so many more people and fans around.. My teammates and coaches who have been there are all helpful with advice. Its so easy to get distracted, but everyone helping has definitely brought me peace.
MSA: Thinking only about the sport of volleyball, what is your favorite thing about the sport?
Harmotto: It truly is the ultimate team sport, and everyone has to pitch in to be good. Again its like a family out on the court.
MSA: Volleyball has grown so much in the last 10 years in the WPIAL, how does that make you feel?
Harmotto: It's cool and great to see that, I'm glad I've been a part of that, and I'm happy that it is growing nationally as well.
MSA: How do you not let your accomplishments personally, and team wise get to your head? How do you stay so grounded?
Harmotto: For me, bible study has really helped. Everything I receive that is good and has happened comes from my relationship with God. All the praise has taught me peace and the freedom of humility. At the end of the day, who you are as a person keeps me grounded.
MSA: You have a degree in elementary education from Penn State, this is your first Olympics. Will this be it, are you ready to move on after this or is there more volleyball left in you?
Harmotto: I try to remain in the present as much as possible, God willing I'm going to give it another shot in four years. I try to take this all one step at a time, I love it out here, I love my team in Italy and I definitely think there is more left in the tank. Though some day I see myself teaching in the future.
MSA: Christa, good luck in London, have fun and everyone here is proud of you.
Harmotto: Thank you very much.