She was solid last season, but now she’s lights out.
Tessa Jones, Lady Blues senior right-side hitter, has emerged as one of the top players at the Division II level. Earlier in the year Jones became only the 11th Washburn player to reach the 1,000 kill plateau. She already has 260 kills this season, leading the Lady Blues to an 18-1 (3-0 MIAA) record and a No.7 national raking.
“She is playing much better this year than she has ever played,” said Chris Herron, Washburn volleyball coach. “Two years ago she was a third team All-American, last year she was honorable mention, and this year she is playing at the level of a first team All-American. Tessa, [Dani] McHenry and [Monica] Miesner are probably the top kids I have ever coached. They each have their own unique gifts. The only area Tessa really needs to improve in is blocking.”
Jones began her collegiate career in 2003 at the University of Kansas, transferring to Washburn after her freshman season. Last year Jones was slowed by knee injuries, undergoing surgery on both knees last November.
“My knees feel a lot better this year,” said Jones. “I came in and worked hard all summer to get back to 100 percent. We are a really good team that has the talent, but I don’t think that we have reached our peak yet. We are definitely playing better than last year, but we still have a lot of areas we need to improve in.”
Last year the Lady Blues won the MIAA West Division championship but, despite a 27-9 record, finished the season on a down note, losing to West Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Washburn is loaded this year, returning top players, Jones, Miesner, Erica Cowhick, Mandi Cox, and Ashley Shepard. Jones said that she hopes the seniors will play a leadership role in their own way, as the team relies on her to continue her big year.
“She is really dependable,” said Stephanie Nitz, junior middle hitter. “If we are in a tough situation and need a kill, front or back row, we can always go to her and expect good things. She works hard and has a lot of natural talent. She always pushes and encourages everyone on the team, whether she is doing good or bad.”
Washburn is embarking on the most difficult part of its schedule as they enter conference play. They defeated Southern Missouri Saturday night 30-19, 30-19, 30-25 to stay perfect in conference play. Jones was one of four Lady Blues to reach double figures in kills, with 11.
“We have a lot of really tough matches coming up,” said Jones. “The MIAA always has a lot of good teams, and we have to be prepared for every game. If we play like we have been, I think we can go really far this year.”
Jones is unsure about her future plans after volleyball, but said she hopes to join the volleyball staff as graduate assistant in 2008.