“Wooop! Wooop!” Every game is filled with cheers, high fives and Jill Edwards’ siren-esque battle cry.
From the start of warm-ups until the last point, the occasional “Woop! Woop!” echoes throughout Heiges Field House.
Edwards, a senior at Shippensburg University, has been perfecting her rally call since her volleyball career began in middle school.
“She has a will to win like nobody else I ever coached,” Edwards’ high school coach Bonnie O’Connor said. “She would hit the ball so hard it went out of bounds. She kept working and working and became an incredible player.”
She began playing club volleyball, which is where most college scouts go to find their recruits, in eighth grade. However, when she reached high school, Panther Creek had just started a volleyball program and the team was all freshmen and sophomores. On a team full of ninth and 10th graders consistently playing against 11th and 12th graders, Edwards’ skills developed and improved quickly. Playing at the club level also helped.
“Jill is passionate about the game and acts on that passion,” O’Connor said. “When she gets motivated she is good at making other players step up. She gets people around her to work hard.”
As her high school years went by, Edwards wanted to keep getting better and continue her volleyball career in college. She came to a camp at SU in 2009, the summer before her senior year — and that is when she met head coach Leanne Piscotty as well as the rest of the SU volleyball squad.
Edwards joined the volleyball team as a freshman and immediately started taking teams by surprise.
In her debut season, she earned PSAC Eastern Division Rookie of the Year, All-PSAC First Team, and Daktronics All-Atlantic Region Second Team. By the end of the regular season she led the PSAC with 458 kills, ranked 39th in Division II in kills per set and added a .229 hitting percentage.
“My freshman year I took teams by surprise. They weren’t sure who this freshman was,” Edwards said. “Each year I have learned that I have more expectations. When you’re younger, you’re allowed to make more errors and they understand that you’re still growing. By your senior year, you should be developed and confident and able to lead the team.”
In the 2013 season, Edwards has racked up 524 kills (as of Nov. 20) in 36 games. She already holds the record for most career kills, surpassing the 1,000-kill mark and breaking the previous record during her junior campaign.
“She’s improved every year,” Piscotty said. “She’s become a better passer. She transitions much better and works really hard off the ball and gets a big approach for all of her attacks. She didn’t always do that and now she always does.”
Edwards surpassed the 2,000-career kills mark on Nov. 16 when she recorded 18 kills against University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Piscotty is confident Edwards will surpass the goal, especially because she — and Edwards — hopes the team will advance past the PSAC Quarterfinal.
“We’re still learning how to play with each other and that’s a good thing,” Edwards said. “Toward the end of the season we’re going to have had that time and that energy focused on developing where we’re going to really take off.”
When Edwards came to that volleyball camp in 2009, she played with and met many of the seniors who graduated in May 2013. The chemistry between that team and this year’s team is drastically different.
There is a large freshman class this year with only two seniors and no juniors. The team is young, so Edwards’ leadership skills have been critical this year.
“I think it is crucial to the development of the program as a leader, having very high standards, leading by example and leading by performance,” Piscotty said.
“We have a really talented group of freshmen,” Edwards said. “By leading them I try to instill that confidence of, ‘Know what you’re capable of. Know what you can bring to the table. Feel good about how you left the court. Always work hard. You don’t want to have any regrets.’”
Edwards has had other leadership experience when she coaches at Revolution Volleyball Club in Chambersburg, Pa. Piscotty said Edwards’ volleyball IQ has soared not only from playing, but also from coaching.
Piscotty said this year in particular, Edwards’ defense has been phenomenal. She has 386 digs and 54 block attempts. Piscotty added that Edwards is reading her opponents extremely well and becoming faster.
With such a young team, Edwards is working closely with the freshmen and sophomores to ensure the legacy that SU volleyball has established stays in tact.
“It’s a totally different Shippensburg volleyball than what I’ve known for the past three years, but entirely fun in its own way,” Edwards said. “They’re just a fun energy and excited about all the stuff that comes with college, let alone volleyball.”