It’s been a long, tough season for Jenny Mitchell.
On the UAA volleyball team, the 22-year-old senior has watched her career rise in four years from player on the bench to team captain.
But that’s a position that now holds the responsibility for dealing with a team that, at one point this season, had lost six games in a row and ten of eleven, the worst funk in the last seven years.
Still, Mitchell is positive and has been communicating that to her Seawolf teammates.
“It’ll get better eventually,” Mitchell said. “A lot of fans always ask us what happened or about the losing streak, but the only person who you have to believe in is yourself. We just stick together and will work to get out of the streak.”
Mitchell knows she has to be a vocal leader, and while she is one of the team members, she is held in higher regard because she is one of the team’s go-to players.
“Jenny is very good at communicating,” head volleyball coach Kim Lauwers said. “She’s comfortable with the coaching staff, is a spokesperson for the team and respectful. She’s definitely a team player and leads through example.”
Both coaches agree Mitchell plays 110 percent at games and even during practice. They say that while Mitchell is carrying the weight of the team on her shoulders, she does an excellent job not letting it show.
“There’s a lot of pressure being the leader,” Lauwers said. “Mitchell is focused and makes the team want to win.”
As the right-side hitter for the Seawolves volleyball team, the lefty Mitchell has averaged 3.14 kills per game this year, which is good enough for second on the team behind Carolyn DeKay. Mitchell recently set a personal best while playing against Saint Martin’s in Washington with 26 kills.
Mitchell grew up in Everson, Wash. and picked up volleyball in middle school. During her senior year at Nooksack Valley High School, she sent a volleyball video to UAA and then tried out for the team when she arrived. Mitchell decided to stay because she had family in Anchorage and liked the school after visiting it on vacation.
“It’s nice to get away but still have family around,” she said.
The game against the Saints gave Mitchell a chance to see her family and for her family to see the team win, which finally broke the streak.
Mitchell spent the past three years as UAA’s seventh player, the first one to play off the bench during games. Mitchell says the level of volleyball at UAA is much higher than at high school, with everyday training on top of coursework. Mitchell, though, has never considered the balance to be a struggle.
“I think it helps to have something that pushes you,” Mitchell said. “You have to do well to stay on the team and to keep scholarships, I think it’d be harder to focus without volleyball.”
However, this year, Mitchell adds in one more factor to balance by being the team captain.
UAA’s team captain is voted on by the team, which chooses someone they feel will lead them with their work ethic and desire to compete.
“She’s worked hard and sat behind the seniors to get where she’s at,” said UAA assistant coach Nicky Rose.
Rose said Mitchell’s athletic ability has grown tremendously since she arrived at UAA four years ago.
“I’ve watched her go from being a skinny little 110-pound right-side hitter, to now, when other teams know that they have to beat Jenny Mitchell to beat UAA.”