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Stevenson making up for lost time with No. 1-ranked Washburn VB

THE PENNANT PLAYER PROFILETSN gold partner Pennant

By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Jalyn Stevenson's senior high school volleyball season was a nightmare.

Comparatively, her first college campaign has been a dream, with the 5-foot-10 freshman outside hitter helping Washburn University's volleyball team achieve a No. 1 national ranking and a 14-1 record entering Friday's MIAA 6 p.m. home match against Missouri Southern.

Stevenson's 2020 season at Spring Hill was one she had waited her entire career for, but a freak on-court collision with a teammate early in the season resulted in a fractured ankle and put her on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

"It was heartbreaking because I had played on that team for three years up until then and it was my senior year and I was like, 'Here we go,' '' Stevenson said. "The year before we were really, really good. We were very successful and we made it to state for the first time and we had another chance and then I got hurt.''

Stevenson still attended all of the Broncos' practices and games after her injury, but it wasn't easy.

"That was even worse, to sit and watch,'' she said. "I tried to help as much as I could. I shagged balls on my crutches and things like that, but it was tough.''

Fortunately Stevenson, who played for former Shawnee Heights and Washburn standout Erica Cowhick at Spring Hill, had already orally committed to Washburn so her college plans were set, but she had to presevere through a long rehabilitation period.

 JalynStevenson4Jalyn Stevenson has bounced back from an injury as a senior in high school with a strong freshman season for the top-ranked Washburn volleyball team. [File photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Fast forward to this fall and Stevenson is well on her way to replacing all bad memories with good ones.

Joining a veteran Washburn team, Stevenson was surprised to be in veteran coach Chris Herron's plans from the outset and has continued to be a major part of the Ichabods' success throughout the season.

"I thought with how many seniors we had coming back and everyone ahead of me -- we have 22 players on our team -- I thought I was going to have to wait my turn and I was OK with that,'' Stevenson said. "I just knew I had to work hard and get a little bit of playing time at least, but it really came as a surprise to get as much time as I do.''

JalynStevenson3Washburn freshman Jalyn Stevenson records a kill earlier this season, one of her 113 on the season. [File photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Stevenson ranks fourth for the Ichabods with 113 kills, including a team-high 16 kills in Washburn's 3-1 road win over then-No. 1-ranked Nebraska-Kearney and a team-high 13 kills in the Ichabods' 3-0 win over Central Oklahoma last weekend.

The good news for Stevenson and the Ichabods is that she's just now feeling like she's 100 percent and sees better days ahead.

"I would say it's right now, honestly, that I'm finally back to where I was,'' she said. "I was physically jumping and doing all the stuff I used to be doing, but my muscle tone wasn't the same. I wasn't jumping as high as I normally do, I wasn't moving as quickly.

"I'm definitely getting more confident in my ability and my performances have also really helped with mentally focusing on every ball in practice and getting more confident in the things that I do.''

Stevenson said her transition to the college level has been smoother because of the veteran players around her.

"It's been good because I get really good advice from them because they have been here for four years,'' she said. "They know what coach wants, they know what's expected of them and I'm still learning that, but they've definitely helped me understand that.''

Getting a chance to play close to home is another plus, with Spring Hill about 80 minutes from Topeka.

"I definitely made the right choice,'' she said.