-By Deanna Bergers
At only 18 years old, this Rockford native led the Grand Rapids Community College volleyball team with 406 kills and 43 service aces as a freshman in 2017 and earned the Western Conference Freshman of the Year Award.
This is the story of GRCC sophomore Kendra DeJonge who won multiple awards in high school and has continued that trend in college.
DeJonge, now 19, decided to continue her volleyball career at GRCC due to her history playing with coach Chip Will, who she first met when she was 13 and playing at the Michigan Volleyball Academy. Playing volleyball for her favorite coach and alongside her close friend and co-captain, Kayla Salyer, were factors for DeJonge’s decision to play volleyball for GRCC.
She noticed that playing against harder competition is one thing that makes volleyball more fun to play at the college level, along with the opportunity of playing with a new team.
“Meeting all the girls on the team and establishing bonds with everyone…we all come together and we’re playing our best game,” DeJonge said.
There has been a noticable difference between high school volleyball and the college level for DeJonge, since being a leader and captain this year has held her to higher expectations.
“(Coach) Chip expects the best from us,” she said. “We have to perform our best at all times and can never take a second off.”
DeJonge’s hard work is noticed by GRCC Athletic Director Bill Firn as well, who she’s worked with in her two years at GRCC.
“Kendra has been a go to person for our team in more ways than one,” Firn stated in an email to The Collegiate. “She is a leader both on the court and in the classroom. She is an all around player who can score at will as well as play tremendous defense.”
In the 2017 season, the Raiders’ volleyball team ended with a 27-3 record and finished as the runner-up in the Regional Championship. DeJonge’s goals for the 2018 season are to establish a good chemistry with the team, make it through regionals and fight to win the national championship.
To do this, DeJonge says her team has to keep working, stay headstrong and remember to keep their composure.
“We can never be slacking on the court or at practice,” DeJonge said. “Even the players that aren’t on the court all the time make a difference.”
The team is always cheering, whether they’re on the court or on the sideline and this helps them play their best game.
When DeJonge is not eating, sleeping and breathing volleyball, she likes to hang out with her friends in her apartment or go home and visit her family in Rockford. She said she enjoys being in the heart of Grand Rapids and visiting the Blue Bridge and Rosa Parks Circle.
In between the hustle of practices and games, DeJonge studies business while taking 13 credits this semester. Her favorite part of being in Grand Rapids and playing volleyball at GRCC are the bonds she’s created.
“The fact that I’m actually playing volleyball here–you’re part of something bigger than actually going to school,” she said. “You get to be a part of a family.”
When her time at GRCC is up, DeJonge isn’t completely sure where she’s going to go next, but she hopes to attend Grand Valley State University and dreams of playing beach volleyball down South someday.