By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- Jessica Henry was excited about the opportunity that awaited her prior to the start of the 2012 volleyball season.
As an underclassman, Henry played with former Warriors standouts Morgan Sirbaugh and Brooke Schneider, and Henry saw how the duo led the Sherando program on and off the volleyball court. This year, as a senior, Henry was ready to take the reins.
"They were always good role models for me, so I wanted to do the same for the team this year," Henry said of Sirbaugh and Schneider. "It was exciting to know that I'll be captain, I'll get to lead the team."
The idea that a young Warriors squad would be looking to her for guidance and leadership fueled Henry's offseason work. As an added boost of motivation, Henry knew she needed to be prepared for any position that Sherando head coach Chuck Ashby needed her to fill on the court.
"I worked a lot over the summer, worked on being ready for the season and ready to be put anywhere and do what I needed to do," Henry said. "I really wanted to do well this season and I really worked hard at it."
That hard work certainly paid off as Henry, The Northern Virginia Daily's 2012 Volleyball Player of the Year, put together a sensational season for the Warriors.
Henry led Sherando with 160 kills and 26 aces, and was second on the team with 35 blocks and 145 digs. She also earned first-team all-Northwestern District honors.
While the numbers alone suggest Henry's importance to the Sherando squad, Ashby said Henry's best attribute is her willingness to play any position on the court.
Henry played all three hitter positions -- outside, middle and opposite -- throughout the season and even worked as a setter sometimes during practice.
"I used her everywhere I could, and she's just one of those players that every coach wants," Ashby said. "She'll do whatever it takes for the team. If I needed a libero this year and I said, 'Jess, I need a libero,' she would've done it in a heartbeat. And that is what I think our program is based on."
Henry's love for the sport is evident every time she sets foot on the floor, and there was no doubt who was the catalyst for the Warriors on the court this season.
Henry brought an unmatched level of energy to each and every game that Sherando played, and anyone in the gymnasium during a Warriors volleyball match was certain to see a fair amount of emphatic fist-pumps -- a celebration that always follows a Henry kill.
"It's just so exciting when you get a kill, and even when one of my teammates gets a kill, because every kill counts as a point and you're that much closer to winning the game," Henry said.
Ashby said Henry was quick to embrace the role as a captain and a leader at the start of the season, but the Sherando coach said Henry's journey into that role began well before the 2012 campaign got underway.
As a junior last season, Henry would often venture to Ashby's classroom to discuss different matters concerning Sherando's volleyball program, including scouting reports for various opponents and why a certain girl wasn't trying out for the Warriors' squad.
Many of the scouting reports came from Henry herself, who learned a lot about many opposing players through playing club volleyball during the offseason. Ashby said he considered Henry a "second or third assistant coach after coach [James] Minney."
Henry has a knack for teaching, according to Ashby, and it's no surprise that she will study education while attending UVa.-Wise next year. Henry also received a scholarship to play volleyball for the Cavaliers.
"I sent out an email to all of the coaches that I knew had the program that I wanted," Henry said. "Then I sent videotapes to [UVa.-Wise] and they asked me to come visit and practice with the team. I fell in love with it."
Henry said she could definitely see herself coaching volleyball at some point after college, and Ashby would certainly enjoy it if Henry returned to once again help the program that she has dedicated so much time and hard work to as a player.
Henry certainly has all of the physical skills necessary to be successful in the sport of volleyball, but it is the intangibles that Henry possesses that set her above the rest.
"She wears her emotions, so you could tell she's honest and she wasn't in it for the glory of herself," Ashby said. "She set goals for her senior year, but she wasn't out to be player of the year. She was out for Sherando's volleyball program to do the best that we could do. That's what she was in it for."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org