True freshman looks to be present and future for CSU volleyball

Haleigh Hamblin

Jasmine Hanna goes up for a spike during Colorado State's match against Wisconsin earlier this season.
Outside hitter, Jasmine Hanna, goes up for a spike during Colorado State’s match against Wisconsin earlier this season. (Photo credit: Christina Vessa)

It is one thing to start a few matches during your freshman year at a Division I program.

But when you are the team leader kills for half of those matches, and the team is the ninth-ranked Colorado State volleyball program, it quickly becomes clear your role is a lot bigger than just another freshman on just another team. But that’s exactly what true freshman Jasmine Hanna has done by consistently proving to coaches, teammates and opposing defenses that she is a force to be reckoned with.

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“It doesn’t surprise me at all that she is doing this well,” Jasmine’s mother, Michelle said. “Once she puts her mind to something and sets a goal, I’ve never seen her not succeed at it.”

Hanna looks like any outside hitter on paper. Standing tall at 6-1, with a towering vertical jump and arm motion, she is anything but a rookie. The freshman has started in nine matches in her first season as a Ram, and while Hanna has had the jitters of any first-year player, she has totaled 89 kills, 3.30 kills per set and 14 blocks.

“You know, I was walking up this ramp here, and I was thinking about how I’d considered redshirting her, and she has been one of the most impactful players on our team so far. We got a great freshman down there,” head coach Tom Hilbert said after last week’s sweep against the University of Denver.

Hanna grew up in the suburbs of Queen Creek, Ariz. with an older and younger brother. Michelle raised the family as a single parent with the philosophy of pushing her children to be the best they can be in all aspects of life, especially sports.

“She was the one that pushed me to play volleyball. Its kind of a funny story, when I was in middle school she paid me to tryout for volleyball because I wanted to be a cheerleader, and she was like I will pay you if you go tryout for volleyball,” Hanna said. “She played volleyball in high school, so I did too. I kind of found out I am a little bit good at it.”

However, Hanna never thought a $20 incentive would turn into a career at one of the top volleyball programs in the country, as well as one that also ranks in the top-10 nationally in attendance.

“We had must have gone on at least 20 college visits before we came up to tour DU and CSU,” Michelle said. “One of her coaches had told her that when she finds the school that is best for her she will feel that connection and really know that it is the right place for her. I remember leaving Fort Collins and Jas leaned over to tell me that she really felt something when we were walking around campus.”

Before moving to Fort Collins, Colo. Jasmine remembers watching her older brother play basketball at Northern Arizona University. While she went through a phase in-between volleyball seasons, trading out the spandex for gym shorts and a basketball, she later learned where her calling truly lied.

“I guess I really look up to him, he kind of opened my eyes to college sports,” Hanna said. “He got a scholarship from colleges and that’s the first time in my life I really saw that.”

Because of Jasmine’s hard work at the Club Red volleyball program at the start of her freshman year of high school followed by Spiral Volleyball Academy for her sophomore through senior year, recruiters began sending letters from all across the country. Hanna was ecstatic when her first letter came for the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

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Molly Stark, the director of Spiral Volleyball was a key asset to Jasmine’s success and  one of the biggest reasons why Hanna is at CSU. Hanna said that when coaches contacted the club looking for strong outside hitters her name was given and that would end up in teams looking at her, and eventually contacting her.

“I was actually a middle (blocker) my freshman year in high school and I actually did pretty well in the middle,” Hanna said. “When I went to club they switched me to the outside and I played right side a little bit and then when I went to high school the next year we had a different coach and she was actually an All-American at BYU and was the one that got me to move to the outside hitting position.”

Schools like Tennessee, Denver, BYU, the University of Louisville and Colorado State continued to recruit her. While many juniors in high school have not put a lot of thought into which college they want to attend, the ACTs, or even what degree to puruse, Hanna took the risk to visit the Rocky Mountains and see if Ram Country was going to be her new home for four years.

Hanna committed to CSU at the end of her junior year, not knowing what her role would be once she put on the green and gold uniform.

Now ten games in to the 2014 season, the question has been raised about where the CSU volleyball team would be without her. Playing alongside All-Mountain West players Deedra Foss, Marlee Reynolds and Kelsey Snider, Hanna has become a force in the Colorado State lineup.

To think it all started with a $20 bill.

Collegian Sports Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at sports@collegian.com an on Twitter @haleighhamblin.