How big of an achievement can one accomplish during their first week of college? Jesse Larkin, a freshman on the Kean University women's volleyball team, received the first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rookie of the week award for the 2016 season. Not only was it her first time playing for Kean University, but she also helped the team win 5-0 during Kean University's opening weekend.
"It was pretty cool, very unexpected and honoring to have such an award, especially with my first game [at Kean University]," Larkin recalls. "My mom was posting about it all over Facebook, my family was really proud."
Larkin moved all the way from California to attend Kean University and join the women's volleyball team. Her mother helped her search for colleges recruiting volleyball players, and Kean University had an opening for her position. Larkin plays as a middle blocker, which suits her tall height well.
Many colleges around her home in California did not have volleyball team openings, but luckily, Larkin was able to continue playing her favorite sport at Kean University. Her family is really supportive of her decisions at Kean, even if she is miles and time zones away.
"No colleges around me offered volleyball, so I really thought I should get out of my comfort zone and experience something new here at New Jersey." Larkin states.
Initially, her father did not want her to be so far from home, but after visiting the campus and discovering what Kean could offer his daughter, he became supportive of her choice to attend the university.
As the only child, Larkin started trying out sports in sixth grade. Her parents used to play sports when they were in high school, so it was no surprise to them when she took an interest in it as well.
What started out as playing for schools, turned into playing for clubs and teams.
She has tried playing basketball, but did not enjoy it as much as she enjoyed softball and volleyball. In high school, Larkin was playing for both the softball and volleyball team, but by sophomore year, the workload started to get heavy and she had to choose between one of those commitments.
Larkin's passion for volleyball outweighed her passion for softball. For the rest of her high school years, she stuck with volleyball and brought her energy and strength all for that one sport.
Before college, Larkin has been to nationals four times because of volleyball. Once in middle school and three times in high school. Of course her volleyball career is not full of wins.
"In the past, even if I lost a few games, it made me want to push further instead of giving up," said Larkin. After being asked what she found the most difficult about volleyball, Larkin responded, "Preseason was tough, but it was worth it. I knew in the end it would be worth it so I pushed through. I never thought about giving up."
When asked what she loves about volleyball, Larkin says, "I love the team, the sport, relying on teammates, the dynamics of volleyball, the feeling after winning, and the passion I feel for it."
Although she started playing volleyball alone, she made a lot of friends in high school and even at Kean University. In fact, her most favorite thing about volleyball is the group of friends she made on her journey throughout the years.
Larkin was asked about her experience as a student athlete at Kean University.
"At first, being on the women's volleyball team was a bit pressuring because I was a freshman, but the Kean teammates were very supportive. The program is great, the training is great, the coach is great," said Larkin. She also mentions as a freshman, "I really enjoy Kean. It's very welcoming here, so it's nice since I came from California. The transition for me was very different."
Currently, Larkin has not declared a major, but she is interested in the medical field, hoping to be a nurse someday. She plans to move back to California to work near San Francisco and her home.
After college, Larkin will continue playing volleyball as a hobby. Even if she's not constantly hitting lines to keep her energy up on the court, she will never forget the passion she has for the sport.