ST. LOUIS – Christopher Newport senior setter Jessie Heavenrich has raised her game to a new level this season, and because of that so have the Captains.
The USA South Conference Player of the Year two times over had 936 assists prior to the national quarterfinals and added 27 more in the Captains’ 25-14, 25-22, 25-11 victory against Carthage (24-7) Saturday at the Washington University Field House.
Newport coach Lindsay Birch says that Heavenrich’s true value lies in her selflessness.
“The beauty of her as a leader is that she never lets a teammate doubt themselves,” Birch said. “She never lets a teammate think that [a mishit] was their fault – whether it was or not. She always carries that load. She has pretty big shoulders because she always takes the blame.”
It’s not that there’s been a lot of blame to shoulder for Newport this season.
The team is on a 15-match unbeaten streak headed into Sunday’s national championship match against either Eastern (36-2) or Wittenberg (35-3).
“It’s been our goal since day one,” Heavenrich said. “To reach it [the national championship match], but to also know that we’re not done yet [is special].”
Birch added that the way Heavenrich plays, she makes her hitters feel invincible.
As the coach puts it, an invincible hitter isn’t afraid to make mistakes and, therefore, isn’t afraid to attack the ball with complete gusto.
That’s just what Christopher Newport did Saturday.
“We had no absolutely no fear today,” Birch said. “Even in game two when [Carthage] started to mount quite a rally there. The girls played without fear and we were as ready as we could absolutely be for anybody.”
Birch says that there has only been one minor flaw in Heavenrich’s game in past days, and the great thing is that those days are, indeed, in the past.
“I just wish she would call her own number every once in a while, she’s incredibly selfless,” Birch said. “She wants the hitters to terminate the play and I would like for her to do it every once in a while. She’s amazing at it and she’s finally starting to do that. She’s also starting to do some other things to be more deceptive. [She’s showing] pretty good timing.”
The fact that the unbeaten run that will culminate, win or lose, in the national championship match is, indeed, special for Heavenrich — especially since the Captains had made the national quarterfinals in both her sophomore and junior seasons, but bowed out after one match.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Heavenrich says. “It has been amazing. I am so proud of my team for making it this far.”