Senior to play D-1 volleyball in Big East
Schaller-Crestland's Jenna Malcom broke a lot of college volleyball coaches' hearts here Wednesday when she signed a letter of intent to play for Syracuse University in New York starting next fall.
Malcom was recruited by ten Division I schools, Texas Tech, Texas Christian University, and the University of Houston among them.
"I just felt Syracuse had a lot to offer," said Malcom. a standout middle hitter for Schaller-Crestland for the past four years. "It has a great volleyball program and it's one of the best schools academically in the nation."
It didn't hurt that Syracuse University coach Jing Pu told Malcom she could step right into the starting lineup when the team opens play for the 2004 season.
"They're a young team right now with just two seniors, and I think their record is 16-14 so far," she said. "But the coach said they needed a middle (hitter) right away so I should see playing time as a freshman."
Malcom, a probable all-state selection this season who finished with 1,131 kills in her four years at Schaller-Crestland, visited Syracuse the second week of September, she said.
She saw the Orange play in a weekend tournament on campus.
"The campus is beautiful and it's in a nice part of the country," Malcom said.
Speaking of country, Syracuse is known as a men's basketball country, especially after the Orangeman won the NCAA championship last March.
That's certainly something Malcom can relate to. She's been a standout for Schaller-Crestland in basketball the past four years as well.
"I always though basketball would be Jenna's sport," said Jenna's mom Karen. "But she found out that in Division I, she might not be quite big enough to play the post position. She loves volleyball, had success at an early age with it and coach (Marilyn) Murra has been a big influence on her."
Murra, in Cedar Rapids for the Iowa State Volleyball Tournament, said Thursday night by phone that Malcom is her first player ever to play for a Division I school.
"I've had some good players capable of playing at that level," Murra said. "But none of them has decided to go that rout and keep on playing. It's kind of nice that Jenna has decided to keep going."
But before she did anything, Murra had to help Malcom decide that volleyball was her No. 1 sport.
"I had to convince her about that, because she's such a good basketball player," Murra said with a laugh.
Indeed. As a freshman, Malcom finished with 191 kills while she had 311 as a sophomore and 320 as a junior. She added 307 to her total this season and finished her high school career with 414 blocks, an average of 1.2 per game. She added 118 service aces and served 92 percent over her career.
Nevertheless, the Wildcats were beaten by No. 4 Galva Holstein in four games in the region finals last week.
"The girls were pretty down for a couple of days, and so was Jenna," Karen Malcom said. "They wanted to get down to state for a lot of reasons, but I know they really wanted to do it for Marilyn, to get her back to state."
Murra, meanwhile, said Jenna, at 6-foot-1, is a natural as a middle hitter.
"She's worked hard on her game and has the body and frame of a natural volleyball player," the coach said. "She's developed great court awareness and was a great asset to our team by helping our younger kids in the program this fall."
Now, Jenna's thoughts will turn to basketball, where, naturally, she plays in the middle, of the lane that is.
Both Karen and her dad Richard were basketball standouts in high school, while Richard was an all-conference player at Buena Vista University as well.
"She definitely comes from a basketball family," Murra said, again with a bit of a chuckle.
Karen was all-conference in basketball for Schaller high before graduating in 1977, a year before Murra came on to coach Schaller's' first year in volleyball.
Karen was also a standout in track, where she competed at the state meet in the 100 and 200 meter runs, the long jump and the 4x400 relay.
Karen said Jenna gets her height from her dad, who is 6-foot-7 and also coached the Schaller-Crestland boys basketball team during the 1990's. Richard was a basketball standout at Storm Lake High in the 1970's.
Meanwhile, Jenna will play her favorite two sports this winter. Basketball starts in late November, and so does the schedule of her club volleyball team, the Nebraska-Elite.
According to Murra, Jenna was first noticed by Syracuse University while playing for that team.
"It gave her a lot of exposure to college recruiters," Karen Malcom said of club volleyball. "They play in tournaments all over the country, in Las Vegas and out east."
"(The Nebraska Elite) is more like an all-star team than anything else," Jenna said. "But I think it's prepared me well for the college game. Club volleyballs is much faster-paced than high school volleyball, and that should help me adjust next fall."
According to Murra, that adjustment won't be easy - even for Jenna.
"In college, it's just a different game, much faster-paced," Murra said. "But I have confidence that Jenna will adjust and be a good player at Syracuse."