Ask any player on the Portland State volleyball team about senior outside hitter Jessica Brodie, and without hesitation every single player will say she’s one of the best they’ve ever played beside. However, pose this same question to someone that has never seen her play, and they will fire back with a question of their own: “Has she ever even stepped on a volleyball court?”
Brodie faces this same doubting, underestimating reaction each and every time the Vikings face off against an unfamiliar opponent. Opposing players snicker and giggle at her small stature, and are flabbergasted time and time again when they find out she plays the traditionally dominating tall-player position of outside hitter. Coaches constantly bark at their teams to hit the ball directly at the 5-foot-6-inch outside hitter’s side of the court because she is supposedly too short and lacks the necessary power to return it with authority.
”Being one of the smallest players makes me feel like the underdog and I always have to prove people wrong,” Brodie said. “Sometimes I can hear some of the opposing players from teams that we usually don’t play saying, ‘Hit it over that girl because she is short, hit it over short girl.’ When we were playing Connecticut earlier this year there was a player giggling and laughing at me for my size. Then I blocked her and we started to laugh back at them.”
Little do the opposing teams and coaches know, the player they immediately deemed the weakest link is actually the rare exception, or the one player that can defy all the laws of physics with her amazing athleticism. These players and coaches normally make one fairly noticeable observation: that Brodie doesn’t possess the lengthy limbs or abnormally tall stature of most volleyball players. What is overlooked and soon discovered is that while she doesn’t look like most players, she also doesn’t play like most players.
Opponents aren’t the only ones fooled by Brodie’s hidden talent. Portland State head volleyball coach Jeff Mozzochi admits that he wasn’t completely aware of his stud outside hitter’s elite talent and versatility when he recruited her from Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, Wash. nearly four years ago. Originally, the best fit for Brodie was thought to be at libero, a position designated for defense specialists, due to the constraints that her size posed. However, it didn’t take long for her uncanny ability to shine through and demonstrate that she could help the team in another capacity.
”We recruited her primarily as a defensive player, which is what she did part-time as a freshman,” Mozzochi said. “In the spring of her freshman year, we were a little short on outside hitters. So, she basically said, ‘Hey, can I hit outside?’ and so we gave it a try. That spring she continued to get better and better. But, the real eye opener was when we went to the University of Washington for a scrimmage, and they just couldn’t stop her. She was our best offensive player that day, and from then on she has been one of our starting outside hitters for sure.”
One of the primary reasons that Brodie has continued to excel as an outside hitter is her attitude when she puts on her game face. When she hits the court, she strikes a fine balance as a player. You can immediately tell that she wants to win so badly that she salivates at the mere thought of victory, but is also never afraid to crack a cheerful smile under the most pressure-filled moments.
”When I’m playing, I am definitely focused on the game, but it isn’t like I’m Serious Sam out there,” Brodie said. “I need to have fun out there to play well because that is who I am.”
Unlike her court personality, her playing style doesn’t shed a hint of balance as she only has one gear, and that’s full blast. From the stands, she seems to be everywhere on the court. She swiftly and quickly floats around the playing surface, coming from seemly nowhere to make a play. The energized star utilizes every square inch of the hardwood, and is typically seen sacrificing her body to dive for digs, hustling to save near faults and soaring high above the net to blast speedy kill shots.
Portland State’s talented senior has already claimed two Big Sky Conference player of the week awards this season for her exceptional play. Currently, she sits atop the Big Sky in kills per game average and is making her mark on a national stage, boasting the seventh-best kills per game average in the nation at 5.36 kills per game.
Recruited to Portland State mainly for her defensive ability, she also uses her unrivaled athleticism to quickly track down opponents’ kill shots and transform them into scoring opportunities for the Viks. She scores with consistency from behind the service line, ranking second in the conference with 0.49 service aces per game. Her silky smooth but powerful serve adds an additional dimension to her already complete game, putting her in a class of her own.
”She is definitely one of the top all-around players in the Big Sky Conference,” Mozzochi said. “She’s dynamic, explosive and is as athletic as anyone around. Obviously she is not the biggest player in the Big Sky, but that is what makes her so much fun to watch. Jessica Brodie is just absolutely fun to watch and you come to games to be entertained. She is definitely worth the price of admission.”
When the exciting Brodie isn’t expending her energy on the volleyball court, she has academic responsibilities just like every college student. Currently, the high-flying volleyball player is a social science major off the court. However, she doesn’t have her heart set on one profession down the road.
”Right now, I am just trying to get a degree. Then once I go back home I will hopefully work for the business that my family owns. Also, my little sister will just be starting high school, so I would like to help coach. I don’t want to do coaching exclusively. I would like to do something else and maybe coach high school or a club team on the side. I guess I just haven’t found my dream quite yet.”
While this proven underdog is searching for that elusive dream job she will still have a sensational senior season to finish. With the Vikings looking like a formidable squad this season, with their record at 12-5 overall and 7-1 in conference play, Brodie may experience one of her dreams sooner than she expected.
”My greatest moment at Portland State hasn’t happened yet because it would be winning conference, because with second-place finishes we keep coming so close,” Brodie said. “Hopefully, that will happen this year.”