Yale Volleyball Senior Overachieves On the Court and in the Classroom
Whether it’s a final exam or the finals of a big tournament, Jessica Kronstadt is as competitive as they come. A senior libero on the Yale University volleyball team, she registered 366 digs this season and had over 700 in her four-year career. She played all but one game this season for the Bulldogs and posted 20 digs in a match six times, including a season-high 31 against Dartmouth. She earned the Coach’s Award for her consistent play and leadership, made the All-Ivy League academic team in the fall and is involved in numerous campus activities-all of that while maintaining a 3.71 grade point average. A standout prep player at Harvard-Westlake, Kronstadt led the Wolverines to a CIF championship her junior year and played on Gene’s Team, one of the Southland’s most successful club volleyball teams, coached by beach volleyball legend Gene Selznick. Home in Huntington Palisades for winter break to spend time with her parents, brother Erik (a sophomore pre-med at Cornell) and sister Nicola (a sixth-grader at St. Matthew’s), Kronstadt visited with Palisadian-Post Sports Editor Steve Galluzzo this week to share her thoughts on volleyball, college life and her future… Post: Why did you decide to go to Yale, a university that does not give athletic scholarships? JK: I visited a number of schools my junior year of high school and I really fell in love with Yale and Dartmouth. The prospect of going to an Ivy League school always interested me, so when the Yale coach called me I saw it as a great opportunity. I went on a recruiting trip in September and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. I liked the fact that there was no mediocrity. Nothing about Yale is mediocre. To be in this intensely competitive academic environment where students still have a great time and love the university was enough to sell me. Post: Being a student-athlete, how are you able to make time for your other interests? JK: What I wanted from college was not to have my life dominated by volleyball. I wanted to be able to pursue music and learn a language fluently. Of course, volleyball takes up a lot of my time, but I’m also in the Elizabethan Club, which is a literary society for professors and students who share a love of music and literature. I’m also a tutor and I’m involved in student mentor programs and those are things I might not have been able to pursue if I went to a big-time volleyball school. Post: After graduation next semester, what are your career goals? JK: I’m waiting to hear from law schools right now. I want to get a joint degree in business and law, which is a four-year program. If I get into Yale law school, I’m going to do that. If I don’t, I’ll probably work for a year in consulting or banking to have some experience and then go for my JDMBA. Yale law school is the best in the country, but I have as good a chance as anyone else. If I do get a law degree, I’d probably like to work in the DA’s office as a prosecutor doing the hands-on trial work. Advertising also appeals to me. It’s a very exciting field. Post: If you had to pick a favorite volleyball highlight at Yale, what would that be? JK: Just playing for four years at the Division I collegiate level is an achievement in itself. But if I had to pick one thing I’d say my proudest moment was beating Princeton this year. We hadn’t beaten them since 1997, it was at home and it was the last time I was ever going to get to play them. Everyone played great and the athletic director came into our postgame meeting and was so elated. It was just a huge win for our program. We beat Harvard on their senior night, too, which was pretty cool. On a personal note, winning the Coach’s Award was very rewarding. Post: To what do you attribute your team’s success this year? JK: Our new coach, Erin Appleman. She put the smiles back on our faces. She connected with us personally and athletically. She has really turned the program around. We had an incredible season. We had our best start in 11 years and we beat teams we didn’t beat last year. We won tournaments that we wouldn’t have won last year. We opened the year at the West Point Tournament and beat a very good Army team. She knew how hard to push each one of us and got the maximum talent out of each player, which is a special skill that I think very few coaches have. I’m glad I got to play with her, but I’m sad it was only for one season. Post: How come you chose to attend Harvard-Westlake High [in North Hollywood] rather than, say, Brentwood or Palisades? JK: Harvard-Westlake was just a better fit for me. It was a bigger school than Brentwood and Marlborough, one of the strongest academically in the country and it was more diverse in terms of the student body. I didn’t love it. If I had to do it over again, I definitely would’ve gone to Pali. But it did prepare me extremely well for college because it’s real sink or swim. You’re surrounded by lots of really talented people who are just as smart as you are. My junior year of high school was as hard academically as anything I’ve experienced at Yale and that’s saying something. Post: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from high school? JK: Not from my high school team. Just my friends from Gene’s Team. I played club with them for four years and we’ve all kept playing in college. Jenna [Grigsby] is at Cal, Jenny [Badran-Grycan], is at Villanova and Lauren [Carter] is at Penn. I see Anna (Carter’s nickname) most because our schools play each other, but I see everyone else when we’re back here on vacations. We had so much fun together. Post: How much did it help learning your trade from Gene Selznick? JK: He was as instrumental a teacher and as big an influence in my life as any of my teachers in high school or any of my professors in college. Not only is he a phenomenal volleyball coach who can teach anyone how to play, but I’d say he shaped a lot of my character. A lot of the person I am is because of the way he coached me in volleyball. I think if you asked any of the four of us, we’d all say the same thing. He’s still the best coach we know. I love having Gene on my side. In terms of my volleyball skill, Gene gets all the credit. Post: Do you prefer rally scoring or would you like to revert back to sideouts? JK: Unfortunately I never got to play rally scoring in high school, but I like it. The games go quicker and I think that makes it more exciting to watch. It definitely gives the weaker team more of a chance. It forces you to concentrate on every point as opposed to just the serving point, so I think it’s a good change. You have to be a lot more disciplined. I’m a little biased because I’m a defensive specialist, but it’s true-defense wins games. Post: How have you liked playing libero the last two seasons? JK: I love it. It’s basically the same as being a DS except that instead of going in for the same person every rotation, a libero can substitute in for anybody at any time in the back row. You just can’t serve. I like it because I consider myself a good defensive player and I like being out there as much as I can. I know I’m biased because I’m a defensive specialist, but to me that and the setter are the most important parts of the team because without passing and defense you don’t get to hit the ball. Post: Have the lessons you’ve learned through volleyball helped in other aspects of life? JK: I wrote my personal statement for law school about this! I love the camaraderie of a team sport. I’ve learned more about teamwork and more about leadership playing volleyball than I have in any other part of my life. It’s also forced me to manage my time and learn to prioritize. Best of all, though, it’s been a great friend base for me. Going into college as a freshman is scary enough as it is, but when you play a sport you have to get there earlier than the other students, so it gives you a chance to get acclimated better, learn the campus, and meet new people before classes even start. Post: When did you first begin playing volleyball and what sparked your interest? JK: I would say that 8th grade is when I really started playing volleyball seriously and when I learned a lot of my skills. People thought I was good at it and I thought it was fun. I was on Jeff Porter’s last Club West team and it was phenomenal. There was me, Jenna, Michelle Davis, Cassie Bryan… a lot of good players. We took eighth place at the Davis Tournament that year. Post: What advice would you give to high school girls interested in playing college volleyball? JK: In the end, it’s just a sport. I’m as competitive as they come. You will not find a woman who is more competitive than I am. I hate losing. I hate it. But I can think of nothing worse than choosing a school or choosing what you do in life based solely on volleyball. I would recommend that you choose a school you’re happy with and the volleyball will fall into place. Volleyball is a great sport, but keep it in perspective at the same time. Your academics are always more important.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.