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Worth the wait

Although I did have to wait a year to play, going back to volleyball was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Meeting a whole new team and actually getting to play with them is something I’ve always loved; especially the Buffalo State volleyball team.

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union (@GMSPhotoWNY)

The wait was worth it.

For Buffalo State College volleyball player Jenna Hugenschmidt she had to wait just a little bit longer to get on the court with her new teammates. After going to Cortland to start her college experience, Hugenschmidt decided to transfer back home to Buffalo and attend Buffalo State College.

There she would step on the volleyball court once again, like her time when she suited for Clarence High School. Eager to get going, the 2020 season was going to be an exciting time. But, Covid, has other plans. The pandemic forced the cancelation of the 2020 season, and thus Hugenschmidt had to wait for this upcoming season to make an impact at the school and with her new team.

The wait was worth it as Hugenschmidt was able to step right in with this young team and help lead them to their first playoff birth in seven years.

“At the beginning of Covid, it was hard for me because I just had decided to transfer from Cortland to Buff State and play volleyball. So I was really excited for that to start in the fall of 2020. During that season, It was sad to know we wouldn’t see the court and play other teams. But, this 2021 season has been so refreshing,” explained Hugenschmidt. “It feels like a big part of my life has gone back to normal even with Covid now. Although I did have to wait a year to play, going back to volleyball was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Meeting a whole new team and actually getting to play with them is something I’ve always loved; especially the Buffalo State volleyball team. This team has given me amazing friends and an even greater bond of volleyball teammates playing on the court as a whole. It’s exciting to see everyone doing their best to challenge each other against other teams. I haven’t seen the court in so long and I actually forgot how much I enjoyed it. It’s brought back so many good memories for me and I like knowing that there will now be even more memories to take with me in the future”

While Hugenschmidt is happy to get back on the court, the last year without playing the sport she played all her life - and not having the normal college experience was a little taxing mentality at times.

It’s easy to see from the outside and say it’s not bad you can go to school from home. But, it’s different. Home schooling, so to speak, you don’t have the same daily routine. You can’t see, and hang out with your friends. It’s just a completely different experience.

Also, Hugenschmidt hadn’t played the game for awhile. She was looking forward to diving right back into it. Now she had to wait an extra year, the nerves start creeping in just a little - and sometimes the self doubt of can I really perform at the level that I used to perform at?

“Not playing a game for a year had definitely affected me mentally. During that whole period of covid, I wasn’t sure when I’d ever see the court again,” stated Hugenschmidt. “From coming to Buffalo State, excited to be playing volleyball again, to hearing that we wouldn’t be able to play, was unbelievable. Especially because this was my first year playing college volleyball, I was beginning to feel nervous and anxious about how I would perform on the court after not playing a game for a while.”

Any nerves Hugenschmidt may have and where gone when she made that first dig in practice. For Hugenschmidt is was just like riding a bike. It was like she never left the court add she fit right into a team that had some expectations this season.

Hugenschmidt stepped right into the Liberio position had made her presence felt right away. The Libero is the do-all position on the court. Hugenschmidt is either diving for balls just before they hit court or she is the second pair of hands setting pup her teammates for the kill.

It is a position she has come to enjoy, and love.

“I would describe being libero as a difficult but exciting position. The libero is never taken out of the game except for one time when the middles switch. There is rarely any time for me to take a break,” stated Hugenschmidt. “My role consists of being the main passer on the court and the second hands if the setter is out of the play. It’s important for me to know that I am giving it my all every play and using the fundamentals that I have grown up learning. Libero is a role that I was given and have learned to love immensely. Whether it’s diving for balls, making an amazing play in the back row, getting a kill as a libero, setting up our hitters so they can kill the ball, or acing the other team; it’s all something that gives me happiness as a person, player, and teammate.”

It’s also a very grueling positions. Getting down low for balls that are coming pretty quick at you in no easy task. Laying out full stretch just before that balls hits the ground can take a toll on the body.

Staying healthy throughout the season is almost impossible when you play volleyball - especially at a high level like Hugenschmidt does. She does the ice bath is her friend, and so is the training room.

Any bumps are bruises she gets through the season Hugenschmidt makes sure she takes care of right away.

“During the season, the ice bath is always open to us after practice. At the beginning of the season, I was always sore and the bath really helped with that. Getting enough rest is something I always make sure to do every night so I am ready to go in the morning,” stated Hugenschmidt. :Before games, it’s crucial to get a good night’s sleep, drink lots of water, and keep your body fed. This is something I always try and achieve so that I am the best I can be when I step onto the court. Also, our team uses stretch bands and does dynamic stretching before all games. This gets us ready to play and keeps our muscles flexible and strong. Flexibility is important in volleyball to maintain that range of motion in our joints because if not, then that’s when injuries occur.”

But, that still hasn’t stopped Hugenschmidt from getting dirty. Getting that ace on an occasion is fun. It’s the diving that makes the game more exciting. There is no better feeling than the crowds going wild when Hugenschmidt dives for the ball and digs it right before it hits the court - we are talking inches before the ball is going down.

Its could be one of the most exciting plays in the volleyball. It’s the anticipation of the ball hitting the ground, but then her comes Hugenschmidt to dig it right at the last second. The crowd goes nuts - and the adrenaline is second to none.

“I would have to say digging those close-call balls. Don’t get me wrong I love a good ace on the other team, but the thrill of making a sick play and hearing the fans cheer is one of the greatest moments for me,” stated Hugenschmidt. “It’s the satisfaction of digging those hard-driven balls and diving all over the court that gets me pumped up. I could also say that when someone not only just gets a kill, but gets a crazy good dig, it gets the whole team fired up and that’s also where our energy comes from.”

The energy is something that Hugenschmidt feeds off both on and of the court. Getting back to a daily routine as a college athlete is no easy task. Going from just having class, like she did last year, to know juggling everything can be daunting at times.

It all comes down time management, however. Hugenschmidt knows her days are going to long during the season. Sometimes that can go from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the last thing you want to do after a long day is homework or study.

But, she knows that’s what a student-athlete is all about.

“The student-athlete relationship can have both positive and negative sides. The transition from being in summer to being busy from 9 am-7 pm each day with small breaks in between is something I’ve had to work on this semester. My days consist of school, practice, and then some more school,” stated Hugenschmidt. “Or there are other days where I have school, then games. Oh, and I can’t forget about homework. It’s important to know the correct amount of time to put into each class while focusing on doing good in your sport. I have created a schedule that now works wonders for me. I make sure that I do my work for each class at the same time each week. This way, I make the certain deadlines and I know when I’m free to do other things. Schedules have always made me feel organized and being organized comes with being a student-athlete because you are always on the go.”

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