Reporter: Ryan Verrydt
For Joanne Broad, there’s a sense of déjà vu watching her daughter Jessica play for the Durham Lords varsity volleyball team.
Playing under her maiden name, Desmond, Joanne spent two seasons with the Lords from 1989-‘91, earning team MVP and OCAA all-star credentials. Today, Jessica is following in her mom’s footsteps and is a star for the Lords.
“I think it’s kinda cool,” said Joanne. “You’re playing at your mother’s alma matter. You’re playing for the team and doing pretty well.”
On Oct. 24, 2013, Jessica made her debut for the Lords recording 19 kills and one ace in the win over Trent. She continued her success all season long as she lead the Lords and finished fifth overall in the OCAA in kills and points per set.
Jessica’s first attempt at volleyball came in grade 6, but she didn’t really enjoy it. Always tall for her age, Jessica was about six feet at age 12 and she tried volleyball again in high school.
During those years she went on to play for the Durham Region Volleyball Club, Ganaraska Wolves and Scarborough Titans, where she capped it all off with a provincial silver medal on the 18U team.
Along the way she ran into Dustin Reid. A former Canadian national team player, he was the head coach of the Ryerson Rams, so despite offers to play volleyball at colleges in the United States, Jessica decided to stay local and committed to Ryerson.
“We definitely recruited her,” said Reid. “I knew Jessica fairly well from her club volleyball experiences. I was new at Ryerson, I think that was my first true recruiting class.”
In her first season with the Rams, Jessica was second on the team with 84 kills (spikes that result in a point) and recorded a team-high 22 aces (serves that result in a point). Her second season was plagued with injuries and she only managed to play 27 sets.
“She was a player that contributed in a lot of ways. She worked really hard and made a lot of improvements to her game during the time she was with us,” said Reid.
Jessica doesn’t shy away from crediting Reid with helping her develop.
“Dustin is an amazing coach. He has so much experience behind him. He taught me to be the passer that I am,” she said. “He was kind of the first [coach] that really knew the game and really knew how to make you that much better.”
Despite the success during her first season the situation wouldn’t play out. In April 2012, after two years with the Rams, Jessica decided to drop her program and take some time off.
“There were just a lot of different things there,” she said. “It just didn’t fit, it didn’t seem right. I loved being downtown and there was a lot of team chemistry, but it just wasn’t making my time there more enjoyable.”
After taking a few months off, Jessica decided that she had to do something. In October of 2012 she enrolled in the business/marketing program at Durham College.
“I came into it just want kind of wanting to play. I knew [Durham head coach Shane Christopher] prior because we played against each other in rec beach leagues,” said Jessica. “Automatically just seeing some of the girls on the team before I even came, it seemed to be a good group of girls.”
Starting her program in January of 2013, she waited until the fall to start playing for the Lords.
From watching her mother play in leagues as a kid, to winning provincial medals as an 18-year-old, Jessica has arisen as one of the premier players in OCAA volleyball, earning all-star honours in her first season.
Above all else though, Jessica has fun and really cares about the people she plays with.
“Jessica’s a really good person and she care’s a lot about the people that are close to her, her friends and teammates,” said Reid. “She’s a lot of fun to be around. She knows how to balance hard work with staying relaxed and enjoying being an athlete, enjoying being a competitor.”