Wolverines volleyball was good without Jaicee Kuresa.
With her, they could be great.
The senior outside hitter didn’t start the season on the roster due to personal reasons, leaving a roster already decimated by turnover even more vulnerable. After three games, she made her return and promptly won Great West Conference Player of the Week honors.
For head coach Sam Atoa, her comeback felt long overdue.
“She’s one of our leaders,” Atoa said. “It’s sort of like having one missing when she wasn’t here. She has really come into her own and played really well.”
For Kuresa, it’s just business as she sees it.
“It’s my senior season. I’m going to go out with a bang,” Kuresa said. “I want to win and that’s what I come to do every day.”
That meant a combined 25 kills and six blocks in back-to-back games against Cal Poly and Santa Clara, as well as being named to the All-Tournament team at the La Quinta Invitational.
Kuresa downplayed her own performance despite missing season-opening games, choosing instead to credit her teammates for easing the transition back to the game.
“It wasn’t tough,” Kuresa said. “I still practiced every day with the girls. It’s the team that I’ve been with for five years. The girls were welcoming and supportive.”
Kuresa in turn has supported a Wolverines offense that is just now coming into its own. One of just four seniors on the squad, she has teamed with fellow senior Chelsey Heaps to set a precedent for the 11 underclassmen on the roster. Both sport a combination of strength and speed on kill attempts younger players sometimes lack. Sophomore Lindsey Barker has benefitted, exploding to lead the team in overall kills (89) and kills per set (2.78).
To Kuresa, personal and team success stem from performing the same way night in and night out.
“Have fun. Play with passion,” she said. “Play volleyball the way I know how.”