Local volleyball player off to the Olympics

August 6, 2008 7:33:33 PM PDT
The United States women's volleyball team is ranked number four in the world and has a good shot at an Olympic medal.

Their first game in China will be Saturday. And when they take the court, keep your eye out for the middle-blocker from the Bay Area who is living her dream.

To thousands of Bay Area girls, 25-year-old Jennifer Joines is a superstar. The girl from Milpitas is on her way to the Olympics.

"It's something I dreamt about since I first started playing," said Joines.

At 6'4, Jennifer is a rookie on the womens Olympic volleyball team. She wears number nine like her idol, Kerri Walsh of Saratoga. Walsh is the reigning Olympic champion in beach volleyball.

Team USA played an exhibition match last week at Cal. With proud parents looking on, Jennifer got to show her stuff.

The team's coach says Jennifer has lots of talent, but the way she fits in with the team is critical too.

"I think she is the one who always gave her teammates energy, and always positive," said U.S. Olympic Volleyball Team coach Jenny Lang Ping.

Jennifer started playing in junior high. Her mother says they both fell in love with the game after Jennifer's first big tournament in Fresno.

"We both walked in the door and said, we've just been to the greatest event ever -- volleyball. Jenny said I love it dad, I love it," said Jennifer's mom Jody Joines.

Jennifer went to Presentation High School in San Jose, where she met her mentor, coach Jim Reilly.

"She just worked so hard and had such a great attitude. I thought she had the potential of doing anything she wanted," said Reilly.

She went on to be a four-time All American at University of the Pacific in Stockton. Since then she's played all over the world.

"Volleyball has really been the ticket to open my eyes to different cultures," said Joines.

But Jennifer hasn't forgotten coach Reilly.

"He was like my volleyball father," said Joines.

How's he feeling now that she's an Olympian?

"Pretty awesome," said Reilly.

Just in case all this goes to Jennifer's head, she got some sobering news a few weeks ago. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The prognosis is good, but Jennifer says that put everything in perspective.

"She's recovering and she's doing well, and this is just still a game and I'm playing it hard for her," said Joines.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.


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