When asked what makes her a special player, outside hitter Jaclyn Clark’s face turned red with embarrassment as she struggled to compliment herself. Her humility isn’t the attitude one would expect from one of SF State’s all-time greats.
Over the past four years on the Gators’ volleyball team, Clark has put up big numbers. Eleven games into her senior year, she ranks sixth all-time in digs, sixth all-time in kills and sixth all-time in service aces in the school’s history.
Clark said she credits her confidence as a player to the support of her family, coaches and teammates.
“I never expected I’d be such a big part of this team,” Clark said, despite holding the Saugus High School record in kills, digs and service aces. “It means so much to me to be a Gator and to have been a big player.”
As a child, Clark said her family encouraged her to play sports. Once she began high school, she said her coach and teammates nurtured her as the only freshman on the team. Interest from scouts and the affirmation of her skills from her father were what convinced her of her ability to play college volleyball, she said.
“I’ve had so many ups and downs in my career, like any athlete,” Clark said. “The coaching staff always helps me out of those slumps, and my teammates are there to pick me up when I’m being too hard on myself.”
When Clark does find confidence, she is one of the most versatile hitters in the very competitive California Collegiate Athletics Association, according to her coach, Jill Muhe.
“Jac has the complete package,” said Muhe, who has coached Clark for three seasons. “At any point, she can fire off a variety of shots, in a variety of ways, to a variety of places. She may not be the most powerful hitter, but she might have the most range of any hitter in the conference.”
Muhe said that Clark’s versatility extends past purely hitting the ball.
“She’s fantastic at every aspect of the game,” Muhe said. “She passes, she hits, she digs, she blocks and she serves. She is a real all-around player.”
According to Clark, it’s all about doing her job any way she can.
“(During games) I focus on the things I can control,” Clark said. “I forget about everything else, and if I’m lacking in one of those areas, I’m trying to make it up elsewhere.”
Jessica Nicerio, one of the team’s three seniors along with Clark, also said Clark has a wide skill set.
“Every hitter hits, but Jac is an all-around great player who does it all,” Nicero said. “Even if she’s injured or struggling, she fights through.”
According to Muhe, Clark has also improved her skills as a setter.
“When I first got her, she hated setting with her hands,” Muhe said. “I would say ‘take it on your hands,’ but she would always bump it. Now she always wants to set and probably wants to run out there as a setter one game.”
Clark said the bonds she has formed within the team are what she will take away from her experience with SF State volleyball.
While the team often indulges in conventional activities together, such as sporting events or hang-out sessions, they also express their bond in different ways.
“I absolutely hate bananas. I would rather eat 100 cheeseburgers than ever eat one,” Clark said. “My lovely teammates will put bananas in my locker, in my bag and even shove them in my face. It’s horrible.”
Despite Clark’s distaste for the fruit, the running joke is hysterical, according to Nicerio.
“I still love them, usually,” Clark said, smiling.