By Rick Henneman
Youngstown State University senior Val Jeffery was named MVP for the third straight season at the volleyball team’s annual postseason banquet.
“I was surprised [to win the award],” Jeffery said. “I thought that a lot of us contributed to our team’s success and most of us showed MVP qualities. I thought other people had the potential to win it, but it was a good surprise.”
Jeffery transferred to YSU her sophomore year after spending a year at High Point University in North Carolina. YSU head coach Mark Hardaway was not surprised by how she performed throughout her career in Youngstown.
“We knew she was really good,” Hardaway said. “We actually didn’t need a setter in that class. It was just the fact that we had seen her in high school and club and thought so highly of her. We expected her to be very good but I feel bad for her because she is a championship caliber setter. She didn’t get the recognition she deserved because of where we finished seasons.”
Hardaway has coached volleyball for over 25 years but said that Jeffery was one of the most impressive players that have played for him.
“She is by far the best setter I’ve ever coached,” he said about Jeffery. “I’ve never had anybody as good as Val. It has been a privilege and she actually challenged me. It challenges me to make sure that she gets the training she needs. I know you aren’t supposed to have favorites but when you think through your career, Val is at the top of the list.”
Hardaway also said that Jeffery’s work ethic is what puts her ahead of many of the players that he has coached and that she is never satisfied with a performance.
Jeffery ended her incredible three-year YSU career with another great Horizon League season. In addition to the MVP award, she was named honorable mention All-Horizon League while recording more than 1,000 assists and 100 kills for the third straight season.
“I definitely didn’t expect my career here to play out as it did,” Jeffery said about her time at YSU. “I didn’t expect many of the opportunities that Mark [Hardaway] gave me. Looking back, I think it’s frustrating because I know we could have done better. Obviously you can’t change the past but I am so proud to have represented YSU and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Jeffery now ranks second in program history in assists per set (9.87), fifth in total assists (3,217) and sixth in attack percentage (.253). She was also voted the Horizon League Setter of the Year in 2014.
During her time at YSU, Jeffery spent time competing in tryouts for the U.S. Women’s National Team. She said that the opportunity was a turning point for her career as a volleyball player.
“Being at those tryouts really opened my eyes up to seeing how much teamwork is an essential part of volleyball,” she said. “To really work with other people, to get the flow of how they play and to be confident in their ability to accomplish the little things to accomplish a win is what I learned the most. You have to trust your teammates and strive for the same goal.”
Jeffery will graduate from YSU next year and while her time playing volleyball as a Penguin is over, she is not done contributing to the team.
“I’m going to be helping out the team as much as I can as a student coach,” she said. “I’m going to help coach the setters. After that I have a choice to play professionally if I keep up my skills in the gym.”
Jeffery also said that she has considered pursuing a career in nursing after she obtains her degree, but she hasn’t made the decision yet.