Whenever Crystal Lake South’s girls volleyball team needed a pick-me-up, senior outside hitter Jessie Proszenyak was always there.
The Gators’ go-to hitter was a source of big points, big swings and big moments throughout a memorable year for South, which captured its first Fox Valley Conference championship since 2014 and first regional title since 2015.
Proszenyak recorded 250 kills, 245 digs and 50 aces for the Gators, who almost went undefeated in the FVC at 17-1 and posted 30 wins in a season for the first time in seven years. But more than any win, postseason title or single moment, Proszenyak said she will miss her teammates and coaches at South the most.
“I think it’s just the atmosphere,” Proszenyak said. “Being with everyone, you make so many amazing memories and friendships in the program. It’s honestly so much fun. I think they’re going to be really successful next year, as well.”
For her accomplishments, Proszenyak was chosen as the Fall 2021 Northwest Herald Girls Volleyball Player of the Year by the sports staff with input from area coaches. Proszenyak is the Gators’ first player to earn the honor since Carly Nolan in 2014.
Woodstock North’s Kylie Schulze and Huntley’s Avary DeBlieck also were considered for the award.
Proszenyak talked to sports writer Alex Kantecki about her favorite matches and memories from senior year, winning conference and regionals, stepping into a new role as team leader and captain, public speaking and more.
Do you have any rituals or superstitions before you play?
Proszenyak: I always have to have my hair done the same way in bubble braids, and it has to be done by the same person. And I always have to use the same hair ties.
What was your favorite match from this past season?
Proszenyak: The second time we played Huntley because that was when we knew we took conference. It was a really big moment for all of us.
What is your most memorable moment playing volleyball?
Proszenyak: I would say this year winning conference and regionals because it was the first time when I really stepped up in the leadership spot, which is what [coach Jorie] Fontana has always asked of me all throughout my four years at Crystal Lake South.
Was that a difficult transition for you?
Proszenyak: My sophomore year Fontana asked me that question. I really didn’t know how to step up into that leadership role. I was scared the upperclassmen would think badly of me. I was kind of a little bit nervous when I was younger, but my senior year was when I realized it was something that needed to be done.
Which teammate inspires you the most?
Proszenyak: [2021 graduate] Sam Wesoly. She was my first friend coming into high school volleyball and was someone that I always looked up to. I kind of learned from her ways.
Who is the best athlete in your family?
Proszenyak: My older sister played volleyball in high school and college. My older brother played hockey pretty much his whole life. I feel like we’re all really great athletes, and my parents would probably say the same thing. I feel like it’s a tie for all of us.
What is a sport you are bad at?
Proszenyak: I played a lot of sports growing up. I did dance, figure skating, soccer and gymnastics. The ones I was probably the worst at were soccer and basketball. I tried out for eighth grade basketball, and I didn’t make the team.
What interested you in volleyball?
Proszenyak: My sister played volleyball throughout high school and college, so she was really the one who introduced me to it. Before I even started playing volleyball, I was a competitive gymnast, and I honestly had no desire to play volleyball whatsoever. My sister was kind of like, ‘You should try out,’ and so I did, and I absolutely just fell in love with it.
Who is your hero?
Proszenyak: I would say my parents because they honestly have played a huge role in my volleyball career and they have pushed me to be my best self both on and off the court. Also my grandparents because they went to, I think, every match I had this year for high school, and they absolutely love watching volleyball, so it’s been really fun.
What’s a song on your playlist most people would be surprised is there?
Proszenyak: “Year 3000” by Jonas Brothers.
If you could have dinner with three people from any time in history, who would they be?
Proszenyak: Michael Jordan, Cleopatra, Leonardo da Vinci.
What is your favorite pregame or postgame meal?
Proszenyak: Classic chicken nuggets and fries. Who doesn’t love that?
What would be your dream job?
Proszenyak: An interior designer. There’s a game on my phone I play where you can design the inside of a house. It’s always been something that’s interested me.
Which teammate makes you laugh the most?
Proszenyak: [Senior middle blocker] Megan Langdon because she always has something to say. If I’m in need of a laugh, I’ll kind of gravitate to her the most.
If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
Proszenyak: Something that gets on my nerves is if you step over the line under the net, they’ll always call you on it, which gets really annoying. Especially if it’s a close game, that’s something that gets under my skin a little bit.
What’s your favorite class in high school?
Proszenyak: My speech class, which is kind of crazy to say because nobody really likes public speaking. But honestly it’s one of the most fun classes I’ve ever had. It’s helped me a lot with public speaking and not being so nervous with it.
What is your favorite movie and TV show?
Proszenyak: My favorite TV show is “Friends.” My favorite movies are “Sixteen Candles” and “Grease.”
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
Proszenyak: She’s not a professional athlete, but [Texas volleyball player] Skylar Fields. She’s an amazing athlete and someone I really look up to. I kind of see how she plays, and it contributes to how I play on the court.