By Marc Weems
When Val Jeffery started her career at Youngstown State University, she never imagined she would get to where she is now.
She was asked to participate in the World University Games. The World University Games are made for students to participate in an Olympic-style competition.
“The United States has really paid a whole lot of attention to it. I’m not really sure why,” senior Jeffery said about the World University Games. “It’s a great event for NCAA athletes. They get to represent themselves, their school in another country.”
She said every other country treats the games like the Olympics.
When Jeffery was playing at YSU, she ranked fifth all-time in assists with 3,217. Her three seasons of assists rank in the Top 20 of all time seasons with her 2015 season coming in at number 10.
“We were in Taipei and the city had prepared for nearly five or six years. The athlete village, New Taipei Arena were all brand new,” Jeffery said. “It was all brand new and was basically like the Olympics. I’d say over 18,000 volunteers came out to help. It created a lot of job opportunities.”
Jeffery also said that the building complexes where all the athletes stayed were turned into low-cost housing for the people for Taipei.
“Everyone was so hospitable. They loved Americans,” Jeffery said. “I remember going to the gold-medal match for men’s basketball, we got stopped for a good 30 minutes for photos and stuff. People were so excited to see a USA athlete. Not everyone gets to represent the U.S. flag on their chest.”
YSU head coach Mark Hardaway said that watching someone like Val was awesome, seeing her play in an American uniform.
The U.S. placed 10th out of 16 teams in the tournament as the Russian Federation grabbed the gold medal, Japan got the silver medal and Ukraine earned the bronze medal. Jeffery was proud of the effort.
“The whole thing was very humbling. A lot of athletes have a lot of respect for USA athletes. So, you had athletes from other countries that wanted to take pictures and just wanted to speak with you,” Jeffery said.
She also said with a laugh that some of the athletes talked with them to practice their English skills.
Through her years as a Penguin, Jeffery has been very vocal on the subject of representing well.
“Getting the opportunity to represent our country is exactly what it stands for,” Jeffery said. “I held a lot of pride in that. Not everyone gets to do that. Even just our jersey on the court made everyone cheer.”
Besides pride, the team actually had to play the games. Jeffery and Team USA were in for a tough tournament.
“It was pretty close to Olympic-like speed. Some other countries actually had their national teams there,” Jeffery said. “You could say the competition was a little bit tougher. We matched their intensity and play.”
This wasn’t the first time that Jeffery played internationally. Back in 2015, she played in Beijing, China with a group that traveled with USA Volleyball.
Back in July, Jeffery said to YSU Sports that she was excited for the experience and working with Team USA coaches was amazing.
“When I start playing with faster, stronger, more high IQ players, I start to raise my level of play to match theirs. It was a pretty quick adjustment to that game,” Jeffery said.
She also said that the game of volleyball internationally is much different than American-style volleyball.