As someone who’s been playing volleyball since she was eight years old, USD senior setter Brittany Jessen hasn’t only developed a love for the game, but a love for teamwork and building community.
Jessen was recognized for her 1,000th dig in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center Friday during USD’s match against SDSU. She said she didn’t know she was close to hitting 1,000.
Volleyball head coach Leanne Williamson said this displays Jessen’s selfless personality on and off the court.
“She really is a player that wants to do things for her teammates. It’s not about her and I think that’s why she can be a really good leader in those situations because she’s selfless. She’s not working hard for herself every day,” Williamson said. “She’s working hard for her peers. I think that’s part of the reason she’s able to be so good because she’s not focused on her all the time, she’s able to really just let herself play.”
The team’s win of a share of the Summit League title last year has been one of Jessen’s favorite memories at USD.
“Winning last year, beating Denver at home was just awesome and then beating State the next day to seal the deal and win the title was super, super cool,” she said. “I would say that that was just a compilation of all of our hard work throughout the years. Not just that team that one year, but throughout the teams what we have learned and the culture we have established.”
Originally from Mendota Heights, Minn., Jessen started playing volleyball at eight years old.
As a setter on a team who plays a defensive style of volleyball, Williamson said Jessen had to work to get to 1,000 digs.
“She has pushed herself to get better and I think you see that with her 1,000th dig. When she came in as a freshman defense was not a strong skill for her — it was something she really had to work at and after that first year she put a lot of work into it to make sure she could become a defensive asset as well and really fit in with the style of volleyball that we like to play,” Williamson said. “She’s definitely put in the work and it did not come easy to her.”
As an English education major, Jessen has been student teaching in Beresford this semester.
“It’s different responsibilities of making lesson plans outside of school but then we’re still in credits of education classes it’s just a little less there,” she said. “I’m still gone from like 8 a.m. till like 3 until practice. But it’s a blast, I love it.”
Jessen is also very active in USD’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.
Faith is an important part of Jessen’s life. Not only is she a member of FCA, but she also was part of a group that created an FCA for Vermillion High School after she saw that it was needed.
“Three of us from our USD FCA lead them and this is the second year now and it’s been so good just to show them that you can be in the college environment but still have a super strong faith,” she said.
Jessen said while her 1,000 digs achievement is exciting, her main focus is on the team’s goals.
“Our team goal would be to win the Summit League,” she said. “We’ve worked towards that all the time but it comes with just winning those matches each night. I think we’ve done a great job of managing the league so far.”
Williamson said the coaching staff appreciates Jessen’s enthusiasm and motivation.
“One of the things as a coach we really enjoy is her work ethic. She always comes to practice ready to put in the time and put in the effort,” she said. “You never doubt how hard she’s working. She’s put a lot of time and study into the game and understanding why things work and how to make things better for each other so that is really what makes her a good player. We don’t have to push her to do it, she does it on her own.”
Williamson said it’s been bittersweet to see Jessen’s Coyote volleyball career come to a close.
“Her teammates love playing with her,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to watch her cheer when other people get kills because even though she knows she had a part in it, she’s just excited for that person.”
Jessen said her time at USD has been more than she could’ve hoped.
“I visited a lot of places, but I just absolutely love USD. Everything I learned on those visits has been true, plus more during my time here and it’s just amazing,” she said. “Just the size of the school and the team playing in the Summit League is an awesome league to be in and the coaches and the girls and the major in the ed school has been awesome.”