December 24, 2020 – By NJP
Yes, it’s been a tough year for most of us. We have all had many challenges with dealing with the current state of the world in 2020. But every once in a while, we come across a story that brings things into perspective for us. A story that makes us count all of the many blessings that we still have in life.
Jessica Spierenburg is an inspiration. She is a young lady with exceptional talent on the volleyball court. And she has persevered through the toughest year in her life after losing her Mom, Corrine, suddenly to an aneurysm as Labor Day approached in 2019. This tragic and unexpected event has been crushing and it’s hard to even imagine the feelings experienced then or going forward from that day. Our hearts absolutely break for Jess, her family, and the many people whose lives Corrine touched.
But Jess appears to be driven by the strength her Mom instilled in her during her lifetime. Corrine was filled with life and light. She was a woman who dedicated herself to helping others. But her main focus was always on the two most important people in her life… Jessica and her sister Haley. Jess is so lucky to have her hero and father, Robert, supporting her on and off the court.
During her sophomore year, Jessica laid tribute to that strength and had an amazing volleyball season at Ramsey. She slammed 137 kills, 56 aces, 29 blocks, and 26 assists for the Rams who finished the year at 20-4 and captured their league title for the first time in over a decade. Jessica has always been a high performer on the court, and best in breed in her class year. #12 is tall and lanky, aggressively athletic, has a super high VBIQ, and can put the ball down from anywhere on the court with authority. She faces a bright future and can be prepared to be one of the highest recruited girl players in the state for her grad year 2022. But beyond her physical attributes, she has the stuff that leaders are made of and will be clamored upon come signing day.
During the holiday season, many people attempt to take a look back at their accomplishments and challenges, especially around New Year’s Eve. We can’t help but think Corrine is looking down on Jessica with an immense sense of pride, honor, and love. But it frames out for us that even during one of the most challenging years for all of us, we should value the little things that make our lives so special, appreciate our family and their support, and feel the strength of a high school junior that sets the bar that we can persevere and accomplish anything we set out to, with an angel on her shoulder.
Here is our interview with the inspiring Ms. Spierenburg…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Jess?
My name is Jessica Spierenburg, I live in the town of Ramsey, New Jersey and attend Ramsey High School where I will be graduating in 2022. My immediate family includes my dad and my sister. My dad is one of my best friends and he has supported me in my passion for playing volleyball ever since I started which I could never thank him enough for. My sister is currently twelve years old and is just entering the volleyball world with her first year at DIGS volleyball club. It has been such an exciting thing for me to see my younger sister gain the same love for the sport that I have. My mom passed away just last year, but she was a huge fan of volleyball and is one of my biggest inspirations to this day. She even played volleyball at her high school in the 90s which is something we bonded a lot over.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have been playing volleyball for five years. Before middle school I had tried almost every sport my town had to offer, and none of them stuck. It wasn’t until seventh grade that I joined my school team and fell in love with the game. The reason I started playing was mainly because my friends had joined the team, but I am so glad that I found a sport so perfect for me.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am a 6’0 middle hitter, and I play for DIGS volleyball club. My favorite position to play is middle as I have been playing it since I began club. However, In recent years I have been working on becoming a more versatile player which involves me hitting on the pins as well!
Tell us about your Ram teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
Last season, my Ramsey High School volleyball team worked extremely hard with some incredible coaching from Erin Schroeder, and we were able to pull off our first league win since 1995. Last year’s team also had seven seniors on it, one of them being Peyton Oliver who is another middle whom I learned a lot from. It will be difficult this year as we have lost so many amazing players and since we will have a relatively young team, however I am confident in our ability to persevere. We have some standout players such as Courtney Currier, a current sophomore setter, as well as Ava Krenicki, a senior who has been our trusted libero for quite some time.
You are an amazing talent at middle, especially for your age group. What are your goals for the high school Spring session?
I have been a middle for quite some time which has allowed me to become comfortable in the position. However, my biggest goal this year is to be able to become a standout player, not just in the middle, but also on the outside and right side as well. Along with this, I would love a chance to focus on my passing skills and be able to play all the way around in games.
Tell us about your experience at Digs?
To this day, when I am asked the question “What is the best decision you have ever made?” I say that it was deciding to try out for DIGS. I never thought that I could become an athlete after failing in so many sports, but DIGS saw potential in me at that tryout and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. Today, my absolute best friends are my DIGS teammates, and I have been able to grow tremendously under the incredible coaching staff they offer. I am forever thankful for what I have learned and gained from this club.
Who inspires you?
I am mainly inspired by my club teammates. Being surrounded by such a well rounded group of girls is such a gift. When I watch these girls who I respect so much come onto the court ready to work, it makes it easy for me to do the same. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them challenging me and encouraging me to become my best self.
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan on playing volleyball in college and if so, which schools are you considering?
I definitely plan on playing volleyball in college and I am considering a wide variety of schools from Division I to Division III. I have such a passion for the game that I cannot imagine ending my career before college where it can really begin.
What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
At this point in time, I am planning to study business, specifically marketing. My dad owns a business so I have had the ability to learn about and observe the business world from a young age. At school, I compete in the business club DECA and have won multiple region wide competitions alongside my partner. Business is such a broad and interesting subject, and based on the experiences I have had thus far, I know that it is something I want to learn more about.
What is your favorite inspirational video or music that you like to watch or listen to before games? Would you like to add to the NJP Spotify playlist?
Before each game, my high school team does not actually listen to music, instead we sing to hype ourselves up. The song that we sing before each game is “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye. As random as the song choice is, it never fails to get us excited as we shout the lyrics while stomping to the beat.
Who is your support group?
My support group of course includes my dad and my sister, but I would say that one of my biggest supporters is also my fellow teammate Ruby van der Heide. We met through DIGS and also competed on a national level together at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships. Through all of these experiences we have developed such a strong friendship that I definitely consider her family and a person that I can come to for anything.
What is your favorite volleyball story?
My favorite volleyball story is from my first tournament of my first year playing club. I was still a very new player at this point and evidently did not understand all of the rules of the game. A girl on the other team was serving and as soon as the ball neared the net, I jumped up and blocked it. I had been so excited about blocking the ball that I did not realize the look of shock and amusement on my teammates faces. It turns out that you cannot block a serve, but it was a very funny way for me to learn as my teammates and I still laugh about it to this day.
How is your club team at Digs adapting to the COVID challenges?
At DIGS we have continued to practice wearing masks. It was very difficult wearing masks and working out at first, but now that we are conditioned it will serve as an advantage to us in the future in terms of fitness. With new restrictions, we are only allowed to practice with ten people on the court including coaches. Because of this, we have had to split team practices in half which of course has brought new challenges for our team. However, we continue to make the most of the situation and feel incredibly lucky to still be on the court.
What are your other hobbies or interests?
Volleyball takes up a lot of my time, but when I have a moment to relax I really enjoy reading. This summer especially, with the ongoing stay at home orders I found it very relaxing to sit outside in the warm weather and read a good book.
Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way that you would like to recognize here?
I have a few coaches that I would love to recognize. First and foremost, my club coaches this year, Annie Deloid and Alyssa Broccoli have done an incredible job navigating through Covid-19 and providing our team with effective practices. I owe them many thanks as I feel that I have still been able to develop greatly during this troubling time. I also want to recognize my high school coach, Erin Schroeder who has worked with me since my freshman year, and Coach Bill Lee at DIGS who has such a clear understanding of the game and an incredible way of teaching it. I would not be half as successful today without these coaches!