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Touted freshman Janota makes an early impact for Hawkeyes

BY KYLE MANN | SEPTEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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Jess Janota was a highly regarded athlete coming from Ohio, and she’s always been a little ahead of her competition. When former Iowa head coach Sharon Dingman signed Janota, she predicted a relatively easy transition process.

Perhaps nobody would have expected, however, just how quickly she would become an impact player.

“We knew plenty about her,” Iowa Head Coach Bond Shymansky said. “I knew she was a capable middle, but we had this idea this preseason to train her on the right side and see how it would go. I had no idea it would turn into what it did.”

At 6-3, Janota is an imposing figure to have in the middle, but Shymansky’s experiment to move her outside has paid off immensely. Her size, along with her exceptional strength and athleticism, makes Janota a dynamic weapon on the right side.

“Sometimes tall players are tall, and lanky, and thin, and weak, but Jess is very strong. So as a blocker, she’s a shut-down blocker,” Shymansky said. “Then you add on top of that that she hits like a thug — she just beats on the ball — when you hit that hard, good things happen.”

Both Dingman and Shymansky were aware that Janota was a talented player with loads of potential. She was a standout athlete all throughout high school and was All-State caliber in more than just volleyball.

Perhaps some of Janota’s athletic prowess comes from her basketball background; she was a post player at Gilmour Academy in Concord, Ohio, and was named third-team All-State as a senior.

“I did actually think I was going to play basketball in college,” Janota said. “But between about my sophomore and junior years, I kind of switched my focus.”

Right about that time, she blossomed as a volleyball player, and she went on to be first-team All-Ohio during her junior and senior year. She was also an Under Armour All-American nominee and was a member of the 2012 USA Women’s National Training Team, the first steps to someday playing volleyball as an Olympian.

Despite her accomplishments, Janota came to Iowa with humility.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” she said. “I was just coming here trying to make the transition as easily as possible. It seems to be going pretty well for now.”

Indeed, it does. After her first two weekends as a college player, the freshman is second on the team with 2.6 kills per set and 52 kills overall, behind only Alex Lovell. She is also third with 18 blocks overall and .9 per set. She was also named to the All-Tournament team at the Texas A&M Tournament.

“It’s definitely a good start. I obviously couldn’t have done it without the rest of the team,” Janota said. “I think it’s just a starting point, and I’m ready to go up from there.”

Early in her Hawkeye career, Janota has made an impression on her elder teammates.

“She’s done a really great job of terminating the ball,” senior Alessandra Dietz said. “When we need a big swing, we can count on Jess to terminate the ball, and it’s really exciting to see a freshman come in and make that kind of impact on the court right away.”

She arrived as a promising recruit, but one mere position switch later, Janota has become an impact player much sooner than expected.

“She’s really dynamic over there and has been a force, so that’s a testament to her,” Shymansky said. “She’s one of the best surprises we’ve had from a personnel standpoint; she’s been a real hidden gem for our lineup.”

Follow @KyleFMann on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa volleyball team.


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