DC volleyball captain Joensen ‘a strong leader on and off the court’

Durham Lords volleyball captain Jessica Joensen (centre, holding volleyball) listens to teammates at practice. Photo credit: Emily Barnes

Jessica Joensen is a standout on the court for the Durham Lords volleyball team.

Joensen has been playing volleyball for eight years, four at Durham while studying Business Fundamentals. The 5-foot-9 outside hitter from Newcastle is the team’s captain.

Joensen is a natural leader, says coach Tony Clarke.

“She’s a very strong person and has a good work ethic on and off the court,” he says.

She started playing volleyball because of her dad, who played from 1988 to 1994 in the Molson semi-pro beach volleyball tour and the Labatt pro tour. He went on to coach her in the Durham Attack Volleyball Club.

“How much he loved the sport really made me love it as well,” she says.

After high school, Joensen wasn’t sure if she would attend college or university. She was leaning towards university, however her future coach would change her mind.

“Tony Clarke, our head coach, reached out to us and he came to one of our club tournaments,” she says. “I wanted to go to university but he came up to me and talked to my dad and really convinced me that Durham College was the place to be.”

Joensen says Durham has provided her and her teammates with lots of support. Joensen says she deals with school stress on top of being team captain.

“There’s a lot of resources the school provides for you as a student-athlete to help you maintain your studies,” she says. “We have our own athletic study room, they’re available for us throughout the day, if we need anything we go to our athletic coordinator and they’ll help us with anything school-wise.”

Even though the resources are available to the student-athletes, Joensen still feels the pressure of being captain.

“I do feel pressure, especially on the court, if I make a mistake, I feel like I shouldn’t be making mistakes. There’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders to try and be this perfect player, but my teammates are very understanding and they get it,” she says.

“Team captain…yes it’s a title, but we’re all players, we’re on all equal playing field here, making mistakes… it’s no big deal just shake it off and get the next one.”

Clarke says he saw leadership in Joensen when she came in her first year and saw qualities in her that would lead her into becoming team captain.

Allison Terwillegar, another outside hitter for the Lords, has been teammates with Joensen since first year. The pair used to play on opposing teams before coming to DC.

“I’ve always looked up to her when it comes to defence and she’s always been a strong leader on and off the court. Having her as a captain has always been in my mind from the beginning,” she says. “Seeing her being a leader to everyone else makes me see the potential she has even outside of volleyball.”

During the season, the team practises three times a week for two hours each, attend a fitness class every day of the week and have weekly games.

Joensen says they spend lots of time together so it’s very important to have a strong support system.

Clarke explains the importance of having a close-knit team and acknowledges the hard work the girls put into their sport and studies.

“I always stress the second family-type thing,” he says. “As a father myself, being away from my family quite a bit, I have three girls out of province, some are away from home so it’s like – let’s have a second family here and make memories that last a lifetime,” he says.
Joensen is in her final year at Durham and is looking forward to going to university after graduation for a business and law program.

She says she wants to be known as a dedicated student-athlete.

“I am a hard worker, I give it all I got, I want my teammates to look up to me so I make sure that no matter what I’m giving 100 per cent.”