Jess Mruzik has known since sixth grade she wanted to play volleyball at the University of Michigan, and on Monday she signed her national letter of intent.
An added bonus to the day: the Farmington Hills Mercy outside hitter was named Michigan’s 2019 Miss Volleyball.
Mruzik said she attended a volleyball camp at Michigan as a sixth grader, and she joined the program as a ball girl for the next three seasons.
Farmington Hills Mercy senior Jess Mruzik, named Michigan Miss Volleyball on Nov. 18, 2019. (Photo: Bre Johnson, Special to the Detroit Free Press)
As a high school freshman, when she earned a starting role on the Mercy team, she verbally committed to Michigan.
“I was around the Michigan program a lot and loved every part of it,” Mruzik said. “Then during the recruiting process, I learned I loved it even more. (When I checked out a few other schools) it showed me even more how much I wanted to go to Michigan.”
Veteran Mercy coach Loretta Vogel first laid eyes on Mruzik when she attended Vogel’s camp in seventh grade, and hoped she would decide to attend Mercy.
“You knew then when you saw this young lady, how she could pass and play the game … just a very gifted athlete,” Vogel said. “From the time she walked in the door, she’s been an impact player, starting as a freshman at left front. I think in high school that’s pretty impressive.
"Her jumping ability is just unbelievable … and when she came to us, she was pretty mature in the game. You didn’t see that lack of understanding the game.”
What strikes Vogel most is Mruzik’s "professionalism" — a word not often heard in high school gyms.
“I tell people over and over, she’s probably one of the nicest young ladies you’re ever going to meet,” she said. “She’s not arrogant … she’s always had a very nice, professional way of talking to her teammates, and we’re fortunate that we have a group where everyone is very respectful. And if Jess gives her opinion on something, it’s well thought out. It’s never in a mean way."
The Miss Volleyball award is voted on by members of the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association and is sponsored by the Detroit Free Press. Mruzik received 305 points in voting, with 135 coaches casting ballots (five points for first place, three for second and one for third).
Andelyn Simpkins of Schoolcraft was second (165), followed by Celia Cullen of Brighton (134); Kendall Murray of Ann Arbor Skyline (116); and Jordyn Gates of Grand Rapids Christian (109).
Mruzik impressed the coaches despite missing four weeks of the high school season training with and playing for the U.S. girls under-18 national team, the pipeline for the Olympic team. She was named MVP at the world championships Sept. 14, where the United States rallied to beat defending champion Italy. It was USA Volleyball's first gold medal in an age-group world championship, boys or girls.
“Playing overseas at such a high level really helps my game back here,” she said. “Everything is taken to the next level. And it’s such an honor to play for my country.”
Vogel said she could tell Mruzik was exhausted after the intensity of playing for the national team, so she sat Mruzik for an extra week after her return home.
She finished her high school season with 93 sets played (compared to five other starters with 126 or more); 415 kills, a 0.534 hitting percentage, 172 digs, 42 service aces and a 92.6 percent serve average.
Mercy (55-1) has never won a state title, but reached the Division 1 state semifinals the past two years. It has a quarterfinal matchup Tuesday against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North.
“These four years have gone by so fast, of having Jess with us,” Vogel said. “And now we’re in the last week and I’m not sure I like that. She’s someone we will miss.”