Freshman middle blocker Rainelle Jones, an Oxon Hill, Md. native, chose not to travel far to play collegiate volleyball despite offers from Minnesota, Virginia North Carolina and NC State. Jones comes from an athletic family, both of her parents basketball players. Her father Thomas played at Maryland from 1984-1987, while her mother played for the University of Winnipeg.
She has had a great start to her freshman season, currently fourth on the team in kills and second on the team in blocks with 65. Jones only trails redshirt freshman middle blocker Katie Myers, who has taken it upon herself to mentor Jones the minute she arrived on campus.
When the two first met, Myers could tell that Jones was a little nervous, even afraid to make mistakes. However, Myers sympathized with the nerves, feeling similar when she first arrived on campus.
“I just kind of took her under my wing and I told her to just breathe, the game is a lot faster than club and high school,” Myers said.
Eight games into conference play, Jones is beginning to realize the adjustments needed to make the leap from high school and club to college. The Big Ten conference is widely considered one of the toughest in the nation.
“The biggest adjustment is fundamentals, really focusing on the other side of the net,” Jones said. “For other players you really have to focus on their tendencies, I have to adjust to it.”
Jones’ preparation for her opponents and focusing on their tendencies has not gone unnoticed by her teammates.
“Rainelle, she works really hard in the gym, she wants to be great,” senior outside hitter Liz Twilley said.
“I have never seen a freshman take more notes than her whenever we’re watching film, she fills her page with notes of what everyone is talking about,” senior defensive specialist Abigail Bentz said.
Despite the adjustment of playing in a faster environment, Jones gets comfort playing in front of her family often. Both of her parents, as well as five siblings, are at every home match supporting her and the team. In the Terps thrilling five set victory over Ohio State, Jones had a massive fan section energizing the crowd after each point.
“It’s great, I get to see my family almost every game,” Jones said. “The big tribe that my mom brought definitely brought energy to the team and helped us win.”
Despite being a vital member of the starting lineup, Jones stays humble, giving much of the credit to her teammates and coaching staff. However, Jones has a more long term goal she is focused on.
“It feels like my team is helping me for the most part they are talking to me throughout the plays and the rallies helping me make adjustments on and off the court,” Jones said. “We’re all trying to work together to build a better program.”
As a talented freshman everyone is trying to give you advice, providing the best recipe for success early on in your career. Playing in the Big Ten can be extremely overwhelming, facing off against daunting opponents like Nebraska, Wisconsin and Penn State. The best piece of advice that Jones has received from her coaches and teammates is simple, just breathe.
The Terps will continue to rely on Jones defensively throughout the rest of the season, with the start of a three-game road trip beginning tomorrow against No.17 Purdue.