When freshman outside attacker Kaleb Jenness first picked up a volleyball, he knew he would grow to love the sport and its competitiveness.
“I started playing volleyball because my parents, aunts and cousins all played,” Jenness said. “We would always play at parties, even at Christmas we’d go outside and have a game.”
Jenness, the first athlete to play Men’s Division I Volleyball from South Carolina, said he is thrilled to continue his athletic career with Ball State.
During Jenness’ time at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, the volleyball team captured back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015. However, Jenness didn’t touch the ball once as Wando didn’t have a boy’s team.
Instead, Jenness managed the girls team and participated in its practices. While he enjoyed the chance to connect with other players, not being able to represent his school and compete in games often frustrated him.
“It was aggravating not being able to play,” Jenness said. “I would usually just sit, take stats and be the line judge.”
Jenness sought out other chances to gain experience such has his involvement with the Carolina Union Volleyball Club and U.S. Beach Volleyball. This past July, his team won the U.S. Beach Volleyball National Title.
Coming onto the court at Worthen for the first time, Jenness said he brings a type of energy to the game.
“I’m working very hard and just taking all the tips I can from practice,” Jenness said. “My coaches really like to see all the interaction.”
For head coach Joel Walton,Jenness’ past experiences in volleyball has helped him better understand his playing style and abilities.
“Before coming to Ball State, he played on a team that not a lot of people in his region knew about,” Walton said. “Other teams would be surprised when they’d see just how good he and his team was.”
Walton said he knows Jenness brings several skills to the court, but remains cautious as he wants to assist him in making a smooth transition onto the team.
“There’s a lot for [Jenness] to learn,” Walton said. “Collegiate players can be more physical than club volleyball players and challenge you to have a better and harder shot. The offensive aspects can be more difficult, and playing in college also forces you to become a better server.”
With the first game of the season about two months away, Jenness’ teammate said he has already given a strong impression. Junior setter Courtland Scharenborg had an opportunity to play against him in a tournament in Maryland last summer.
“Kaleb is doing really well,” Scharenborg said. “When I first played against him, I had no idea who he was, but he’s improved so much. He has such a good volleyball IQ and could obviously be one of our stars this year.”
With the support from his coaches and teammates, Jenness said he is prepared for his freshman season with the Cardinals.
“Everyone on my team pushes me to become a better player,” Jenness said. “I can hear them cheering for me. It’s just great.”
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