At 10 years old, Jess Mruzik already knew she wanted to play for Michigan someday.
When she was in middle school in Metro Detroit, Mruzik went to Ann Arbor with her school volleyball team to watch the Wolverines.
“It was super cool. Such a cool atmosphere” Mruzik said. “At that point it was just a dream (but) that was when I knew that I wanted to play for Michigan.”
Mruzik, now a freshman, started playing volleyball at a young age after quitting cheerleading in fourth grade –– a decision that she is very pleased with now. She was a star player in middle school and coaches saw her potential from the start.
Shortly after, Mruzik was traveling to Indiana for a volleyball tournament when a coach from another team came up to Mruzik and her family at a hotel breakfast. The coach knew the Wolverines’ head coach, Mark Rosen, and said that she would give him a heads up about Mruzik.
“My sixth grade self was like, ‘I’m only in sixth grade, what are you talking about?’” Mruzik recalls.
In middle school, Mruzik attended the Michigan volleyball camps. One day Rosen came up to her and asked her if she would like to be a ball girl for the team.
“I was like, ‘Heck, yes, I would be interested in being a ball girl here,’ ” Mruzik said. “That was my dream just to be like to be around the program and to be involved in the program as much as possible.”
Mruzik remembers what it was like the first game that she was a ball girl for the team and how exciting it was for her to be on the court so close to her idols.
“I was starstruck because I was so nervous to be just so close to the girls. I was fangirling a little bit. It was just such a cool experience. I was obviously growing up watching them and it was just a surreal experience being on the court and being so close to them,” Mruzik said.
Once she was in high school, Mruzik continued to excel in volleyball at Mercy High School in Farmington, Mich., known as one of the best programs in the state. In her senior year, the team won the State Championship.
“Mercy prepared me really well for Michigan and I definitely would not be the person, student or volleyball player I am today without that,” Mruzik said.
In high school, Mruzik also played international volleyball for the USA Youth National Team for two years and now competes for the Junior National Team.
Last year, the team qualified for the FIVB U18 World Championships in Egypt. They played teams from all over the world including Brazil, China, Japan, Italy and Canada. The team beat reigning world champion Italy to win the championship and became the first ever American team to win the title.
Now a freshman in college, Mruzik’s experience has been much different. She was able to graduate high school early and has been enrolled at Michigan since January. She got to experience college life without the pandemic for a short time and witness the change we’ve all undergone since then.
There have been many changes, but overall things have been going well for Mruzik. She’s already looking forward to returning to campus from winter break for the Wolverines’ season, which was postponed to spring due to COVID-19, and being able to play an actual game rather than team scrimmages.
“I’m looking forward to playing our first season,” Mruzik said. “We’ve been waiting so long for this and especially with our season getting pushed back and everything and all the uncertainty that we’ve had to go through and kind of prepare for and deal with. I’m just really excited for us to finally play our first real game.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.