|Redbird libero adapts to new spot on hardwood|
|Written by Michael Boyd, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Thursday, 30 September 2010 19:07|
Illinois State sophomore Jenny Menendez has not had to travel far to find success on the volleyball court. Growing up in Normal, it seemed only natural that she took her volleyball talents only a few miles away to Redbird Arena to play for ISU.
Her volleyball achievements started well before she became a Redbird however, being named to two First Team All-Big 12 Conference selections as well as three all-area selections in her career at Normal Community High School.
In four consecutive off-seasons, Menendez traveled the country and played with the Illini Elite volleyball club. In 2008, her team won the AAU 17-year-old open division National Championship.
“That is easily one of the most memorable experiences of my life,” Menendez said. “It was just something you work so hard for and to finally reach that goal with your teammates was amazing.”
The 5-foot-8 defensive specialist’s volleyball career was far from over and Illinois State was far and away the best place for her to continue after graduation.
“Volleyball is one of the main sports everybody focuses on and I just loved all the town support the team always has,” Menendez said. “I also really liked all the girls on the team when I was making my decision of where to go…just staying in town for my family to watch was important.”
She needed little time to adjust to the speed of college volleyball with all of her AAU experience, and it showed her freshman year with the Redbirds.
Menendez appeared in 29 matches and finished second on the team with 24 service aces. Her defensive roots sprang to life as well, recording 243 digs for third best on the team as well as finishing fourth with 2.29 digs per set.
“Jenny played a significant amount her freshman year and contributed a lot as a server, defensive player and as a primary passer, which is a lot for a freshman to take on,” Illinois State head coach Melissa Myers said.
She added, “She was accustomed to the speed of the college game and that really helped her to be able to return college serves, and those are quite different from what she saw before.”
Menendez has taken on a much larger role for the Redbirds this year after being named the ‘Birds’ starting libero. This is an important position to fill as the libero can substitute into the game an unlimited number of times and is largely responsible for the team’s back row of defense.
“She earned that starting libero spot from the beginning because of her solid serve receiving as well as her great defensive play,” Myers said. “Her serve is also great for us as well. She has a really solid serve, and when it’s on, it can really score us a lot of points.”
In her new role this season, Menendez has already tallied more digs than all of her freshman year, currently leading the team with 262, nearly 100 more than her closest teammate.
She also leads the ‘Birds with 4.37 digs per set. Her serving has improved as well with a total of 14 service aces thus far, landing her third on the team behind senior Mallory Leggett and junior Tabitha Visk.
As a starter this year, Menendez has adapted into a leader for the Redbirds, showing her hard work ethic both in practice and in matches.
“Jenny is a great worker. Everyday she comes to the gym and motivates herself and helps motivates the rest of her teammates,” Myers said.
“It’s one of her better strengths, not being able to control only her game but she keeps the energy and competitiveness of her teammates up as well throughout the match,” she added.
As only a sophomore, Menendez still has two more years of solid volleyball ahead of her, but the game is not the only thing that keeps her motivated at the University. The biological studies major has bigger plans for when she graduates.
“I want to become a sports medicine doctor, I’ve always loved helping people and I just love the medicine side of science,” Menendez said. “I’ve been in sports my whole life so I figured, ‘Why not become a sports medicine doctor?’”