New Setter Plays Hard Ball (Volleyball)

Andrew Simon

By Andrew SimonThe Daily Northwestern

One Northwestern team features a quarterback who has consistently and effectively spread the ball around to teammates throughout this season.

That team plays not on the gridiron but on the volleyball court.

The Wildcats’ “quarterback” is redshirt junior Stephanie Jurivich, whose role as setter throws her right in the middle of all the team’s offensive operations.

“Every play, the ball is going through her hands,” coach Keylor Chan said. “She’s the conduit that really makes the volleyball team function, and if she’s on, we can be very, very good.”

As the setter, Jurivich must act as the facilitator of the offensive attack. When the opposition sends the ball over the net and an NU defensive player digs the shot, it typically goes to Jurivich. She’s in charge of taking the pass and setting it so one of the Cats’ hitters can convert the kill.

But Jurivich’s influence on NU’s attack extends beyond just dishing the ball to teammates.

“I call the plays, and the coaches give me a lot of control as far as who I want to pass it to,” Jurivich said. “There’s the physical control of who I set up and at what times, and there’s also the communication control, deciding who goes where.”

Jurivich’s road to this key role has been a long and gradual process. After taking a redshirt year, she played outside hitter as a freshman before splitting time at setter with senior Lauren Greenwood last year.

During the offseason, Chan decided to make Jurivich the full-time setter, with Greenwood moving to defense.

“It was about knowing the potential (Jurivich) had,” Chan said. “Being a 6-1, left-handed setter is very advantageous physically, so she’s able to attack balls a lot of other setters aren’t going to be able to attack. … She’s responded pretty well. She has a lot to learn, because she hasn’t set as much as a lot of other setters have, but I think she’s catching up.”

Taking advantage of her increased playing time, Jurivich has notched 11.15 assists per game, more than double her average last season. She has recorded at least 50 assists four times in 15 matches and has improved her hitting percentage from .238 to .264.

“She’s more confident and she’s more aggressive this year,” junior outside hitter Lindsay Anderson said. “She’s really able to step in and lead the team because she’s on the court the whole time, and I think we all just get more energy from her.”

Along with being physically gifted, Jurivich has the benefit of her ability to look at the game from a different perspective than most.

That’s because unlike almost all of her athlete peers, she majors in math.

“I’m very analytical,” said Jurivich, whose father often makes and sends her statistics and graphs of her performance to study. “I like to figure out why things are happening and problem solve.”

Jurivich’s area of study is readily apparent in her personality, according to Anderson, who said Jurivich is “way too smart” and “overanalyzes everything.”

Yet in searching for a comparison that fits his setter, Chan turns not to the world of mathematics but to that of philosophy.

“She’s a thinker,” Chan said. “I think Plato, Socrates and Euripides have nothing on Stephanie Jurivich.”

Reach Andrew Simon at [email protected]