It’s mid-morning when I sit down with Jessica Schaffer, a sixth year Chemical Engineering major with a fifth year status. It’s her easy-going personality that keeps the conversation flowing. She seems lively, but relaxed, despite having woken up at 5 a.m. for a practice at six in the morning. I’m pleased to discover that she is anything but pretentious, although with all of her achievements she certainly has the right to be.
In 2007, Schaffer, an outside hitter, became the first player in RIT women’s volleyball history to have 600 kills and 600 digs in the same season. Currently, Schaffer is placed at fifth all-time for digs and sixth for kills for RIT women’s volleyball. This season, she was chosen for the Empire 8 All-Conference team as a first team selection and was named MVP of the St. Lawrence Invitational.
These notable achievements, however, had humble beginnings. Schaffer tried out for, and was cut from, a team while in eighth grade due to her lack of experience. Noticing her potential, the high school coach offered her a position as team manager of the varsity squad so she could be exposed to the sport. Throughout high school, Schaffer participated in a variety of out of school teams, including the Junior Olympics, which helped shape her raw talent. During her senior year, she was recruited to play for the University of Rochester Yellow Jackets, but was put on an admittance waiting list after her high school transcript was sent late. Having heard about RIT from another coach, Schaffer came up to Rochester to check it out, loved it and has been here since.
She played for the Tigers her first, second, and third year but suffered from an unfortunate wrist injury in her fourth, which prevented her from playing. All of last year, her fifth here, Schaffer was on co-op, making her ineligible to play. Despite missing two consecutive seasons, she’s decided to give college volleyball one last run this year. Schaffer says, “I have the time. I love the sport. I love to play, and we got a new coach, so I was excited about that. I figured I’d give it a shot.”
According to Schaffer, it’s this new coach, Jim Lodes, who has helped the team make significant improvements this year. Lodes’s coaching style is different from the previous coach, focusing on correcting mistakes and practicing game-like situations. As for the team dynamic, Schaffer says that, just like any friendship, the team has its ups and downs, but remains close, joking around during and after practice. Speaking of the fun her team
has together Schaffer says, “Everything turns into some little joke, funnier than anyone else would find it. But at six a.m., we’re all delusional.” It’s this team camaraderie that Schaffer loves most about volleyball (in addition to the hitting, of course). She says, “My favorite part about volleyball would have to be the hitting, everything about it, the quickness, the power, the combination of plays you can run.” Her love for the sport certainly won’t end after she graduates; she plans to continue playing beach volleyball during the summers.
As for the long term, coaching is an idea that Schaffer has entertained. Having worked with kids of all ages, helping them learn the fundamentals of the game, she believes that this would be a good fit for her, but only later in life, after settling down. For now, she has chosen to focus on her career, finding a job after graduation, and continuing to play volleyball for recreation.