Conversation: Jen Christian
Preseason training is underway for the Texas volleyball team and the Horns are working hard preparing for what could prove to be a very exciting season. Hard-hitting Jen Christian, an outside hitter from Gilbert, Ariz., and one Texas' four talented freshman, is one of seven Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 recruits on the Longhorns' squad, and she also earned high school All-America honors last year at Gilbert High school as she led the Tigers to the Arizona 5-A state title.
Christian recently took a break from two-a-day training sessions to sit down with Texassports.com and talk about the upcoming season, her decision to leave high school early, and what she ate for dinner last night.
The team has just begun preseason workouts. What do you look forward to most, as you enter your first season at Texas?
I am most looking forward to our first match here at home in Gregory Gym, with all the fans and the incredible atmosphere that Texas volleyball has. I have been to UT matches and sat on the sidelines, but I am looking forward to finally being here and actually getting to play in front of the fans.
This being your first season in the burnt orange and white what kind of goals or expectations does the team have, and what goals have you set for yourself personally?
This year we have a lot of goals, but one of the biggest goals is to be very disciplined in our team's systems, and to know our individual responsibilities. Winning the Big 12 championship is our big team goal - and of course, returning to the NCAA Tournament - but being able to compete consistently day-in and day-out will be very important because we are such a young team.
Personally, I want to be able to get out on the court and get my time, but I also want to put up consistent numbers at the same time. I think entering the season without having to carry such a big load on my shoulders because I have Mira (Topic) and Bethany (Howden) ahead of me on the outside, I will be able to put up consistent numbers throughout the year which in the long run, will be best for the team.
Your decision to graduate from high school early and begin school this past spring was obviously tough, but how difficult was it to make that decision, finish early, and transition so quickly into university life?
I started talking to (Texas head coach) Jerritt (Elliott) about coming in early toward the end of my junior year in high school. In order to come in early, I had to take a summer school class before my senior year and then I took a full load of classes during the fall of my senior year, while most seniors at my high school (Gilbert High School) took three or four classes. My decision to come to UT early really came down to a goal that I set, which was to try and make a big impact on the Texas volleyball team. When I realized that I could help make an impact, I had to make a tough decision, since I would be leaving my friends and family behind earlier than I would have planned.
I wavered in my decision a few times, and considered staying home. But when I asked myself if that would really benefit me, or the team, the answer was no. I finally decided to come to school early the day after my team won the Arizona state championship. After talking things over with my parents, I called Jerritt and told him that I would be here in January (2004).
The hardest transition for me to university life was the scheduling and the way that my whole day is planned out. I did not have the summer to transition like Michelle (Moriarty) and Alyson (Jennings) have had, but it was nice to share the early start last spring with Sarah (Holloway) and have someone else to go through that with.
What do you look forward to most about playing in your first match in front of the home crowd at Gregory Gym? How do you think you will feel?
I've been looking forward to my first match at Gregory for a few years now, and I know it's going to be an incredible experience. I can't wait to run out of the elevator at the start of the match and take in the great atmosphere, and experience the awesome tradition of Texas volleyball! The fans and everything here at Gregory make Texas volleyball so special and create a great place to play. I'm excited to experience that atmosphere for the first time as a player.
After growing up in Arizona, why did you make the decision to come to Texas instead of going out to the West Coast? Has it been an easy transition from Arizona to Texas?
I looked at several West Coast schools, but when I visited Texas I was so comfortable with the coaches and players and felt like I fit in right away. Other schools were great, but the comfort level here at Texas is what made my decision. The whole aura here at Texas is so special the way everyone is so into the school and its athletic programs. I have tried to explain what 'it' is to people back home, but can only say, "it is just Texas."
My transition from Arizona to Texas has been very smooth and was helped a lot by visits by my parents and my brother. I also went home once a month in the spring to visit.
You have chosen to study kinesiology. What are you interested in doing with your degree, after your time here on The Forty Acres?
I want to get involved in athletic training and sports medicine and possibly even be on staff here at Texas working with athletes. I would enjoy being involved in anything sports-related, but focusing mainly on strength training and conditioning.
Ok. Let's a do a "Fact Attack." I'll ask you a couple of questions and answer with the first thing that comes to mind. Favorite Place in Austin?
Volleyball: in the sand or on the court?
On the court, at least for right now.
If you're not on the court you're…
At the mall or sleeping.
Which reality show would you be on?
The Real World.
Newlyweds or Simple Life
What did you eat for dinner last night?
Hula Hut: chips and queso, chicken quesadillas and fried ice cream.
What is in your CD player right now?
A mix CD of Tim McGraw, Britney Spears, Usher and some rap.
Neat or Messy
When you think of the University of Texas, you think?
A winning tradition.