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Sandy Journal

Beach volleyball champion now leads Jordan varsity squad

Oct 04, 2018 03:07PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Sandy resident Grace Jansen goes hard for a ball during this year’s AAU beach volleyball tournament. Jansen and her partner won the tournament, and she now leads the Jordan indoor volleyball team as a senior. (Photo byeJenna Warby)

By Ron Bevan | r.bevan@mycityjournals.com

In a school not known for its volleyball prowess walks perhaps one of the state’s best players in the sport.

Grace Jansen is in her final year at Jordan, leading the Beetdiggers team and hoping to help set the stage for a resurgence in the sport. Jansen brings some big credentials to the team. She is the current Utah AAU state beach volleyball champion for her age group.

“We don’t have a lot of players that play on the club level,” Jordan volleyball coach Warren Van Schalkwyk said. “Not a lot of our players are playing the sport year-round like other schools have. Jansen is the exception to the rule.”

Jansen came into volleyball when she was 12 years old. Prior to that, she competed in gymnastics.

“I was an all-around gymnastics athlete,” Jansen said. “I began when I was 3 and I loved it enough I practiced five hours a day, five days a week.”

But gymnastics fell out of her life the day her father, Russ Jansen, had her enter a volleyball tournament.

“I played in that first tournament and I just knew that volleyball was my sport,” Jansen said. “I don’t know what it was, but something just clicked in my mind and I knew that I couldn’t do gymnastics anymore.”

Her father built a beach volleyball court in their backyard and the duo would practice for hours and enter tournaments along the way.

This year Jansen decided to make a run for a beach volleyball title. So she teamed up with another beach volleyballer, Bryton Bishop, of Pleasant Grove. The duo played in two tournaments in southern California and got to the gold bracket each time. 

Then on Aug. 4 the duo came back from California and played in the Utah AAU beach volleyball tournament, taking home the title.

“I love beach volleyball because you get to be involved on every single play,” Jansen said. “You touch the ball at least once every time it comes over the net. You are getting as many reps as two practices or three practices of indoor volleyball. You’re getting so many touches and it helps you just get better.”

Although the style of volleyball between beach and indoor is quite different, six players for indoor and two for beach, the skill set remains. 

“Indoor can be more technical,” Jansen said. “There are a lot of different types of plays you can run because there are six players out there. There are so many different ways to line up for defense. There are so many different technical things you can do with a team of six.” 

Jansen played on the junior varsity team at Jordan as a freshman and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. Since then, Jansen has been a force on the varsity level.

“Jansen is one of the most competitive kids I have ever met,” Van Schalkwyk said. “She absolutely hates losing. She does everything she can to help her team get the point. She is aggressive and chases down every ball she can get.”

Besides Jansen, Beetdigger senior Mel Mafileo has found a niche in the sport. Mafileo came into the program with little volleyball experience, especially at her latest position.

“Last year I noticed what a great athlete (Mafileo) was,” Van Schalkwyk said. “So I threw her into the setter position without any formal training and experience. She ended up setting for both the junior varsity and varsity teams last season. The amount of work she does is amazing and she never complains.”

Unlike Jansen, Mafileo does not play on a club team year-round, and the setting position is demanding in volleyball. A setter needs to read both sides of the court and nearly always has at least one touch of the ball each time it is on their side. Mafileo is responsible for deciding where to pass to set up the best offensive attack.

“She is always going against players that have club experience,” Van Schalkwyk said. “So she is making these decisions against players that play year-round.”

Although Van Schalkwyk, in his second year as Jordan’s coach, knows the rebuilding process of the program has a few years to go, he says he is enjoying these first few years with the program.

“I coach full time with club teams and individuals,” Van Schalkwyk said. “But having this program at Jordan is a lot of fun for me. These girls may not play year-round like many I coach elsewhere, but the attitude and the work ethic they have makes them a pleasure to coach. Win or lose, they find a way to enjoy the process.”