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09/29/2023 04:45 PM

DeFrancesco Finds Great Reward Through Leadership as Volleyball Captain

Jenna DeFrancesco has moved from right side to outside hitter for the Branford volleyball team this fall, while also serving as a senior captain for the Hornets. Photo courtesy of Jenna DeFrancesco

The volleyball court corrals quite a communal feeling for Jenna DeFrancesco and, through her experiences around her second family, she has been swarming the net with resounding results for the Branford volleyball team as one of its irreplaceable leaders.

The Branford senior outside hitter played lacrosse and also competed on a different hardwood of the basketball court in middle school before starting volleyball in 5th grade, immediately drawing a deep attraction to the sport. Now, this season, in addition to moving from right side to outside hitter, Jenna has also assumed a leadership role as one of the club’s captains–helping to pilot the Hornets to a 5-1 start this fall.

“The support from my family and coaches has helped me keep my passion for the sport up. It is like a safe space for me, and I just keep trying to improve to be the best player I can be,” says Jenna. “I have practiced a lot for this sport and have been practicing consistently and done it through tough times. It is also about staying positive and knowing that making mistakes is completely normal; that is really important to me.”

Winning the tale of the measuring tape over her adversaries has aided Jenna quite well in her endeavors on the floor, though she does not rest on that alone in keeping a steady and long-lasting stamina. Jenna is also aware that in a sport of several points and momentum swings in each match, staying the course and keeping upbeat goes quite a long way toward a triumph.

“My height has been helpful, but I have also kept my endurance up because it is such a physical sport,” Jenna says. “It is not an easy sport mentally, either, so I do my best to stay positive and lean on my friends. They help me through mental blocks, so I can be a better player.”

While moving her slot in the front of the court closer to the net, Jenna realizes that things are always a work in progress. She details how it can be tough when the ball is not bounding your way, yet clinching those crucial points in a set more than evens out the emotional balance of the position.

“Being an outside hitter is a new experience, and I will keep working at it,” says Jenna. “I love the feeling when you get a point down for the team after a long rally or tough set; the excitement of that is immeasurable. Being one of the team’s main point getters is great, too. It can be hard staying consistent, along with when you’re having a tough day and pushing through that.”

While she was formally appointed a captain last December at the onset of the offseason, Jenna’s jobs and obligations began long before the tip-off point of this campaign with rigorous summer camps for the club. No matter the grind, the experience has gotten the most out of her as an influential peer, player, and glue for the group and been the capper on her time with Branford High School.

“Being captain has honestly been such an amazing experience. It has been great keeping the team organized and lifting others up. It is super important and rewarding to me,” Jenna says. “The captains ran workouts in the summer, and it was great to meet new players. It is a super fun way to hold responsibilities and have others look up to you. It has left a big impact on my high school experience.”

Hornets’ Head Coach Mike Martone details that Jenna truly practices what she preaches as an athlete and leader of peers, while being someone who can captivate a club out of competition and corral winning momentum within it.

“Jenna has been an outstanding volleyball player since she entered Branford High School. She has a passion for the game, always striving to improve her own skills, and leads by example,” says Martone. “When her team needs her, she has the ability to take over a game. She truly is one of the hardest strikers of the volleyball that I have ever seen in girls’ volleyball. When we need to finish a match, there is no doubt Jenna will deliver, whether it be from the service or attack line. It was clear from her freshman year that she also possessed outstanding leadership skills, as well.”

“What she is able to achieve on the floor, she is also able to echo as a team captain,” Martone continues. “She leads with kindness and care, but her respect for the game and others is ever present, and she holds her teammates accountable. Jenna is deserving of any and all accolades on and off of the volleyball court.”

Jenna’s experience at Branford has influenced her future collegiate decisions, as she’s come to the conclusion that she wants to keep on the ball for college. Still, in terms of the here and now of this final season with the Hornets, they are ready to parlay the momentum from their fast start with several fresh faces to lengthy postseason sprints in both the conference and state ranks.

“I plan on going to college; I have taken difficult courses the last four years to raise my GPA. I want to play volleyball in college. I want to try and go Division III or, if not, go to an academic school and play on a club team,” says Jenna. “Compared to the past years, this team has really become a family fast, and we move as a group. The year is still young, and we also have some young players. It has been exciting to see what the underclassmen can do, and none of this success would be possible without them and the juniors. We have all grown close, and it has helped our performance on the court, and I think we can go far.”