Jessica Jones knew if she wanted to continue her education and play volleyball she would have to leave home.
In Australia they don’t have volleyball programs at post-secondary institutions, as a result a number of athletes have joined university and college teams in North America, including Red Deer College.
The Kings have had several players from down under over the years, including setter Luke Brisbane, middle Adam Turlejski and power hitter Regan Fathers the last two seasons.
Jones is the first player to join the Queens.
“It’s been my goal since Grade 10 to play college volleyball,” said the 19-year-old from Adelaide, South Australia. “I started working on applications and received a couple of offers from NCAA schools in the States. I was planning on going there until I received an offer from Talbot (Queens head coach Walton). Once I looked into it this was a better team and program.”
Fathers lived near Jones in Adelaide and was able to talk to her about the school, the city and the program.
But it was still a big decision and move for her.
“It was the hardest thing I had to do, but it’s also been the most rewarding,” she said. “It was a whirlwind first couple of months, but it’s been great … I’m having a great time.”
Jones spent the first couple of months getting used to a new team, new teammates and the Alberta style of play.
“I found the volleyball to be on a par to Australia and what was different all the girls helped me adjust a lot.”
Recruiting Jones was also a big decision by Walton, who didn’t get to see her play live.
“We got a chance to see her on video and what we saw was a big upside and a lot of potential,” said Walton. “Not seeing her in person made it a bit of a gamble, but we still felt she was a good prospect and we knew from the quality of the guys (Aaron) Schulha had on the Kings we would get someone similar, so it was a no-brainer.
Once Walton got an opportunity to see the five-foot-11 power hitter in person he was glad he made the decision to invite her.
“Right at the beginning we saw a number of pure athletic moves and liked the way she was progressing.”
Jones got some playing time early, but over the last five matches has been a regular and recorded double figures in kills in each match.
“I didn’t have to just jump in and was able to get comfortable,” she said.
But Jones is no stranger to higher competition, having played club volleyball and for the Australian Youth and Junior National teams.
“We travelled a lot through Asia … it was an amazing experience,” she said.
Jones has always played on the left side and is a solid passer and strong at the net, able to see the court on the attack.
“I always felt passing was one of my strengths, but attacking is my favourite thing,” she said with a smile.
The two-time defending national champion Queens had a relatively new starting lineup this year and as a result started the season slowly. They won their first two matches, then lost five in a row, before winning their last seven matches.
“Towards the end of the first semester the connection between the setters and hitters started to click. That made a huge difference in dynamics,” said Jones. “As well we did a number of team building things off the court which made us closer on the court.”One such tying was a rip to Orlando, Fla., over the Chrismas break, where they faced two teams from Qucebec and two Eastern CIS teams in a series of scrimmages.
“That was a big move for us,” said Jones, who was in open studies to start the season, but switched into kinesiology for the second semester. She will be at RDC at least one more year.
The Queens will need everyone on top of their game this weekend as they host the South Division leading, and No. 4 ranked team in Canada, the Briercrest Bible College Clippers in a twin bill. They play at 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by the men.
The Clippers, who handed the Queens their first two losses of the season — 3-1 and 3-0 — in Caronport, Sask., have a 13-3 record with RDC tied for third in the South with Olds at 9-5.
“This will be our biggest weekend of the semester, so far,” said Jones. “It will be tough, We can’t give up anything, but we have nothing to lose, we’ll go in with a great attitude.”
The Kings, who are ranked No. 1 in Canada, take a 13-1 record into the weekend with BBC at 6-10.
It will be the first test without team kills leader, right side Nic Dubinsky, who suffered a dislocated shoulder last weekend against Medicine Hat. Dubinsky, who could be back by the ACAC playoffs, was the RDC and ACAC male athlete of the week along with one of the CCAA athletes of the week.
Schulha will move six-foot-seven newcomer Riley Friesen into Dubinsky’s spot.