Hi Rhody! I'm back with another Q&A, this time with fellow senior Jessie Blaze. Jessie and I sat down at 401 to talk about her daily grind, and what led up to her playing volleyball here at Rhody. Breakfast sandwich in one hand, and coffee in the other, now we're ready to get down to business!
MG: By now I bet you've caught on that I love hearing about why everyone started playing volleyball. So, when did you start to play? What initially got you interested in the sport?
JB: I started out doing a lot of clinics and camps when I was in third or fourth grade. It was more just something to do to keep me busy I think, but it eventually grew into something I became really passionate about.
When I was in fifth grade I met beach volleyball Olympians Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh-Jennings and I wanted to be just like them, so I knew really early on I wanted to play in college. Misty would actually come to some practices at my sister's club when I was really little and she would talk to me about school and volleyball and I just thought she was the coolest person ever.
MG: Because VCU is in the Atlantic 10 you actually got to play against your sister Sami for two out of your four years here at Rhody. I specifically remember you acing her our sophomore year. If I were you I'd never let her live that down! What was it like playing against her? Did you two ever play together when you were younger?
JB: Ha! Yes, acing her was definitely one of my favorite memories. My sister and I actually played together in high school as well as for a couple of club AAU tournaments. We're best friends off the court. On the court though, we never got along, so playing against her was definitely better. We would always talk about our practices and training so it was kind of cool to hear different things each of us were learning on our teams. It's also kind of cool that we both ended up being Rams - just different Rams.
MG: I asked Olivia a similar question… With both of you being defensive specialists, what is it like? Did you always love defense? Or, like Olivia, did your teammates outgrow you in the offensive positions?
JB: I started out as a setter. My sister was a setter, and being the little sister, I just wanted to do what she was doing. After my first two years of playing, I realized my lack of strength to push the ball outside, along with my lack of height, was working against me. I knew I was never going to succeed at that position so I switched to libero. I was always good at passing. It just came naturally. Now I don't think I would want to play any other position, even if I was tall.
MG: We all know that America and Jessie Blaze run on Dunkin'. You may have single-handedly encouraged Rhody Volleyball's coffee addiction. I am curious, how many cups of coffee do you consume daily?
JB: Well... Coffee is life and I've been drinking coffee since freshmen year of high school so, when I got to college, the mix of school work, practices, lifts, and travel increased the one cup a day to about three. I have gotten better about it though. I switched back to one cup a day sometimes two if I have a lot of homework that night.
MG: Now that it's your senior year, what are your hopes for the rest of this season? Do you think you'll instantly miss volleyball once the season ends?
JB: As a senior, I've hit that point of the season where I'm realizing that this is it. The next month and a half is the rest of my college volleyball career. I want us to win A-10s and make it to the NCAA championships because that would make senior year even more awesome than it's already been. It's going to be really hard next semester not playing the sport I love every day of the week, but I think I'll probably join an adult league or play beach at some point just to keep playing for fun.
MG: Reflecting on these past three years, what do you love most about your time here in Rhody?
JB: If I could do it all over again I most definitely would and I wouldn't change a thing. I love everything about Rhody. Having the opportunity to play volleyball with some amazing girls and for a coaching staff that I love makes the distance from home, lack of sleep (mostly because of coffee), 6 a.m. lifts, delayed flights, long bus rides, and all the craziness worth it.
I couldn't agree more, and am so very lucky I got to experience all four of my years here with Jessie! Rhody volleyball wouldn't be the same without her, and we all owe her a big thank you for the coffee tip!
Until next time!