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THA star Cooler on a mission

Madison Cooler is headed to Jacksonville, Ala., to begin her college volleyball career, but before the season begins, she’s taking a detour to Costa Rica.

The Thomas Hewyard volleyball star signed a letter of intent with NCAA Division I Jacksonville State University on Nov. 9 to play beach and indoor volleyball. The former SCISA all-state player originally committed to Mercer University her sophomore year, but decommitted, and re-opened her recruitment, after her official visit this past fall.

Cooler will travel to the Central American nation with her teammates at JSU.

“We’ll be playing about four games and doing two clinics with regular kids, and one with the Special Olympics,” said Cooler. “I think this is the first time they’ve (JSU) done this. I’m really excited because we get to play Costa Rican teams.”

The nine-day trip isn’t Cooler’s first mission. She’s been on two other mission trips with her church, the Bluffton-based LowCountry Community Church. She went to Jamaica in the summer of 2014 and Belize in the summer of 2016.

Unfortunately for Cooler, she won’t be able to play while she’s in Costa Rica because she’s still recovering from an ACL tear from January. But she will participate in all of the off-court activities with her teammates.

“I cannot play and that’s going to bug me, but I love working with the special ed kids – my mom is a special ed director. So, being around them is going to hit home for me,” Cooler said. “But the hardest thing for me will be preseason, will be just getting back into playing.”

Once returning stateside, Cooler and her teammates will begin the grueling preseason training for the upcoming volleyball season. Cooler intendeds to play her freshman season, but if her knee doesn’t fully recover or is re-injured, she could redshirt and retain a year of eligibility.

She hopes to make an immediate impact. Cooler said the team already has a goal to win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament this season.Last season, the JSU Gamecocks finished 6-10, placing them eighth in the conference.

Volleyball runs in the Cooler family because Madison’s older sister, Mackenzie, plays for the University of Tennessee.

Volleyball might have attracted Cooler to JSU, but it was their organismal biology major that sealed the deal.

“As soon as I drove on campus, I absolutely loved it. I met the coaches and they were so nice and welcoming, and so is the team,” Cooler said.

“I want to be a zoologist and work at the Busch Gardens Zoo in Tampa. Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a vet. I have 21 pets. I’ve really gotten into exotic animals: hedgehogs, ferrets. I do love volleyball, but my career is not going to be in volleyball.”

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