Senior gets chance to shine for GV volleyball

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Jessica Majerle (3) and Staci Brower (21) leap up for a block. Grand Valley squares off against Ohio Dominican and claims the victory with a final score of 3-1.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Jessica Majerle (3) and Staci Brower (21) leap up for a block. Grand Valley squares off against Ohio Dominican and claims the victory with a final score of 3-1.

Alex Eisen

Going astray, finding her own way and having fun every time she plays. It’s the Jessica Majerle way.

Raised in a basketball family, Majerle, a Grand Valley State senior, ventured away from tradition and has since established her own legacy out on the hardwood. Instead of dishing out assists and jacking up three pointers, Majerle is knocking down kills for the GVSU volleyball team.

“I pretty much played basketball growing up as soon as I was born,” Majerle said. “My whole family is big on basketball. I actually didn’t start playing or was even really interested in volleyball until around middle school.”

Eventually getting “burnt out” of basketball after middle school, Majerle thrived at Rockford High School as she focused solely on volleyball. She was a key contributor to the 2011 Class A State Championship team and was named All-State second team as a senior.

Meanwhile, her older brother, Ryan, was playing basketball for Rockford and accumulated over 1,200 points – second-most in school history – while playing under their father, Steve, who was inducted into the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame in 2010.

While Ryan went off to play Division I college basketball at Toledo, Jessica finished up her high school senior year and eventually made the commitment to stay local by accepting a GVSU volleyball scholarship.

Not happy with the fit at Toledo after his first semester, Ryan then transferred to GVSU and made sure to ask for Jessica’s approval before doing so.

The same college sibling status lasted for a year before her older brother decided to transfer once more so he could play under his uncle, former NBA player Dan Majerle, at Grand Canyon University.

“When (Ryan) came here it was nice to have him around all the time and we became really close,” Jessica said. “It was hard that he transferred, but he is having a really nice time over there and he is enjoying it. So, it’s good to see him happy which helps me.”

After three years of seeing limited playing time, Jessica is having a memorable senior season with the Laker volleyball team.

Majerle, who has played in every game and made 11 starts, is third-best on the team in kills (109), kills per set (2.14) and total blocks (29). Coming into the season, she had only started in three games, finished off 104 kills and totalled 23 blocks.

Majerle’s development off the court, however, might be her biggest improvement, said GVSU head coach Deanne Scanlon.

“When Jess came in on a recruiting visit, I don’t think she said two words. She may not have done a whole lot of breathing either at that time,” Scanlon said. “She was just very, very, very quiet.That’s just the kind of the kid Jess is until she really gets to know somebody, and then she is the loudest one in the gym.”

Over time, Majerle broke out of her shell and now is most recognizable for her contagious laughter and joking around with her teammates and coaches. Scanlon said she knows Majerle is having a good game when she can joke with her out on the court and she will banter back.

Majerle’s teammate and roommate Audrey Kidd reminisced on some of the best moments the two of them have shared.

“We have some good memories from freshman and sophomore year with some of our assistant coaches,” Kidd said. “We would get yelled at because our cheering was so out there, and we’d trip and fall cheering so hard for our team.”

From cheering on the sidelines to being a key contributor, Jessica has made a lasting impact on GVSU volleyball – proving the Majerles aren’t just a basketball family.

When the season comes to an end, some might look back and remember Majerle because of her forceful kills, but for those close to her, they won’t soon forget the times she caused a scene with her intoxicating laughter.

“I could be sitting on the bus, at the front bus,” Scanlon said. “And from the time she was a freshman and she let (her laugh) rip on the bus it was like ‘oh my gosh Jess Majerle.’ Not having that sound is probably going to be the thing that I miss the most.”