PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Volleyball a natural fit for LindstromSuperior High School sophomore Jessica Lindstrom has played basketball since she was just a mite of a girl. She’s played softball for so long it’s now second nature. Volleyball, however, is another matter. To the sport of volleyball, Lindstrom is a relative newcomer.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Superior High School sophomore Jessica Lindstrom has played basketball since she was just a mite of a girl. She’s played softball for so long it’s now second nature.
Volleyball, however, is another matter. To the sport of volleyball, Lindstrom is a relative newcomer.
“The first time I played was my eighth-grade year,” Lindstrom said.
She’d entertained thoughts of playing volleyball before, but it took a few words from Lori Keute to finally get Lindstrom onto the court.
“She was the one that talked to me first to tell me to play volleyball. She said I was built kind of like (a volleyball player),” Lindstrom said.
Keute saw in Lindstrom the raw talent needed to succeed on the volleyball court. She coached the up-and-coming Spartan at the Junior Olympics level, and then in 2009, Keute took over as the head coach of the SHS varsity volleyball team.
In Lindstrom’s three years of playing volleyball, Keute is the only coach she’s ever known.
“I was just like an awkward little girl, but then Lori really brought out all the skills I had,” Lindstrom said. “I’m happy I had her as a coach.”
Lindstrom has grown into a dominant front-row player in the three years since she first tried out for volleyball. As a middle hitter this season, she led the team in total kills, kill percentage, kills per game and blocks.
“Jess is definitely one of our go-to hitters,” Keute said. “For only having three years of volleyball experience, she has come a long way as a top hitter and defender in the conference.”
For the season, Lindstrom had 265 kills with a .473 kill percentage. She also added 50 ace serves and 65 total blocks as she was named to the Lake Superior Conference all-conference first team.
“It’s a lot more hard work and long hours that you have to do because there’s so many skills that you have to learn in order to become really good,” Lindstrom said.
For Lindstrom, getting her timing down on hits was the hardest part of the game to master. She felt unsure about her play at the net when the season began, so whenever the Spartans had free time in practice, she’d approach Keute for pointers.
By the end of the season, Lindstrom’s work had paid off. She improved her hitting percentage from .175 last year to .293 this season.
Lindstrom also showed drastic improvement defensively. She finished with 223 digs this season after totaling only 61 in her freshman season.
“I practiced really hard, and I had to ask Lori questions about what I was doing wrong so I could get better at it,” Lindstrom said. “She ended up working a lot with me on improving my skills in the back row.”
Lindstrom’s play this year helped the Spartans to claim their first ever LSC title in volleyball and propelled them the to the regional finals in the WIAA Division 1 volleyball tournament.
Superior eventually ended its season with a 3-0 playoff loss to Merrill, but Lindstrom intends to use that experience as motivation.
“I want to win one of those plaques,” Lindstrom said, referring to the regional championship plaque. “That would be so cool, and then just get further and further.”
The Spartans will play next year without Coach Keute, who is moving to Grand Rapids with her family; but Lindstrom said the group of girls returning is very close and will work through the change together.
“We’re all really going to miss the captains and the Keutes,” Lindstrom said. “Volleyball will be a lot different next year.”