The last time the No. 24 Michigan volleyball team had a Big Ten Player of the Week performer was in March 2021. To give an idea of how long it’s been, those games were delayed to the spring and played in front of mostly empty stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Back then, sophomore middle blocker Jacque Boney wasn’t even on the team. Now, she’s got the Wolverines off to one of their best starts in years.

“We started the offseason after not liking the end results of last year,” Boney told The Daily. “We hit the weight room really hard and got really good reps in the gym to improve on our weaknesses.”

Currently 13-5 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten play, the Wolverines are off to their best start since 2019, and Boney has been a big part of the reason why. She has started every match this season for Michigan, is third on the team in total sets played and anchors the Wolverines’ front line with impressive blocking play.

This success isn’t unusual for Boney. She was rated as the No. 26 overall recruit in the country entering college, and was voted to the Big Ten all-freshman team last season. But this year has seen her take another step in her development as a player and a leader. 

“It’s been really nice because it shows that hard work really pays off,” Boney said. “And it’s been really nice to get to know my teammates more. We’re not competing every week in the offseason so I’ve been able to grow my game and focus on myself.”

Her work in the offseason has not gone unnoticed. On Sept 26, Boney was awarded Big Ten Co-Player of the Week honors after racking up 14 kills and four blocks in a victory over Rutgers and nine kills and six blocks at then No. 9 Penn State. The win in State College marked the first time since 2018 that Michigan beat a top-10 opponent and just the second time in program history that the Wolverines were able to beat Penn State on the road.

“It was a great feeling,” Boney said. “We were fully confident in ourselves walking in, and I think that set us up for success. We had no doubt in our minds that we could compete with this team.” 

With 12 more matches remaining in the season, Michigan finds itself in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Having dropped three of their last four matches, the Wolverines can’t lose focus if they want to accomplish their goals for this season. They’ve already faced most of their toughest tests, but in such a deep conference there isn’t much room for error. Through it all, Boney remains confident. 

“I have full confidence in this team, and I think we have every aspect that we need,” Boney said. “The biggest thing is having confidence in every game we go into because, as we’ve seen, the Big Ten is up for grabs. I think if we go into every game with a competitive and confident mindset we’ll do well.”

Only a sophomore, Boney still has room to grow. But she’s already one of the best middle blockers in the Big Ten, and her continued development on the court will go a long way towards Michigan realizing its goals this year. 

And if she maintains her confident demeanor and dominating play, the sky’s the limit for the Wolverines.