Mercy's Jessica Mruzik wins MVP at World Volleyball Championship in Egypt; sets sights on Olympics

Farmington Hills Mercy High School senior Jessica Mruzik, right, and two of her Team USA teammates display the spoils of the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Volleyball Championship in Egypt on Sept. 14. In future Big Ten competition, they’ll be on opposing sides of the net: Jessica is headed to Michigan, while Kennedi Orr (left) to Nebraska and Devyn Robinson to Wisconsin. (Photos courtesy of Jackie Mruzik)

FARMINGTON HILLS — Father knows best.

“She doesn’t realize her awesome talents,” says Jeff Mruzik about his daughter, Jessica.

And, mother does, too.

“She has been blessed with a gift from God,” says Jackie Mruzik.

Her coaches and peers have acknowledged her stunning ability on the volleyball court and have showered her with lavish praise and honors.

Jessica, a senior at Farmington Hills Mercy High School, returned about 10 days ago from Egypt a world volleyball champion.

She led the USA team in a thrilling five-set victory over defending champion Italy 25-17, 19-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-10 for the gold medal in the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Volleyball Championship.

It was the USA’s first gold after winning back-to-back silvers in 2013 and 2015.

Jessica was named Most Valuable Player of the 10-day (Sept. 5-14) tournament on the banks of the Suez Canal, the first American so honored since the award was introduced in 2005.

In the Gold Medal match, Jessica from her outside hitter’s position led the squad with 20 points by racking up 16 kills, three blocks and an ace. Her block gave the USA a 13-9 lead, which it fashioned into 15-10 for the championship.

The third set was typical Jessica. With the USA leading 13-10, she slammed a kill and followed with an ace to shift the lead to 15-12. She scored the last two points in the 25-18 win with a combination of a block and an ace.

The journey to Egypt started a year earlier, in July 2018. Jessica, 17, was one of 20 elite players invited for two weeks of training at the U.S. Olympics Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. She was among a dozen selected for the USA team to compete in September in the 2018 NORCECA Girls U18 Continental Championship in Honduras.

Jessica Mruzik prepares to unleash one of 14 spikes she fired against Italy to lead Team USA to the girls volleyball world championship in Egypt. She was named Most Valuable Player of the 10-day event. She has her eyes set on a state championship for Mercy, a college career at Michigan, and (hopefully) the 2028 Olympics.

Jessica turned in another sterling performance in the championship finale against Canada (25-13, 25-12, 25-23). She led all scorers with 19 points that included 14 kills, three aces and two blocks.

She became a national champion and earned another MVP citation, and the team qualified for the world championship in Egypt.

Her story begins at the CYO level in the fourth grade at the family’s parish, St. Edith in Livonia. The defining moment, her father believes, when they knew volleyball was her special sport happened in the seventh grade.

“Division 1 coaches were watching her,” Jeff says, “and she was talking to them. That wasn’t normal.”

A 6-foot-1 freshman at Mercy, Jessica was playing volleyball and basketball. She was the center on the Marlins squad that went 22-5 and reached the state quarterfinals.

At the same time, she was also playing for the Team Detroit volleyball club. The conflict in practices and games helped her make the decision to concentrate on volleyball. Two years ago, she moved over to Legacy volleyball club in Novi.

“I’ve seen a lot of the United States,” Jessica says, including Salt Lake City, Dallas, Chicago and Indianapolis as recent examples.

“There are a lot of sacrifices the family makes,” says Jeff, who used vacation time from his employer, DESTACO, a leading global supplier of high-performance automation, based in Auburn Hills, to accommodate Jessica’s schedule. “But it was a great time. We had so much fun.”

“Jessica is so passionate about volleyball,” says Jackie, who works at Novi Detroit Catholic Central High School in the advancement and alumni relations office. “Yet, she maintains a good balance between her school and hanging out with her friends.” (Their son, Travis, is a 2014 graduate of Catholic Central.)

Coaches describe Jessica as a “very explosive athlete”: quick, super-fast arm wing, great ball control, extremely competitive, a team-first attitude.

Mercy’s coach, Loretta Vogel, was among those who recognized her “natural talent” in the seventh grade. “She jumps well, and she’s much stronger now. She’s the whole package,” Vogel said.

Jessica adopts a philosophical approach to the game of volleyball and sports in general: “Whatever athletics teaches you on court are lessons you can use off court.”

She ticks off lessons she’s learned: “How to manage your time, discipline, responsibility, accountability, teamwork.”

“Jessica continues to amaze,” her father says. “World champion. National champion. What’s the ceiling?”

She has a plan in mind that could blow the roof off.

First, some unfinished business: winning a state championship. Mercy has been eliminated in the Division 1 semifinals the last two years: in 2017 by Bloomfield Hills Marian, and last year by Lake Orion. The Marlins are currently ranked No. 1 in Division 1.

Then, graduate early from Mercy and start her college career at the University of Michigan. She’ll know by Dec. 1 whether her application for early enrollment in January is accepted.

“I’m anxious to get ready for my next step in volleyball and adjust to college life as a student-athlete,” Jessica says.

Then, she plans to graduate from U of M with a degree in sports psychology. 

“This is becoming a huge thing in athletics, the mental aspect,” she says. She doesn’t have a coach, as some athletes do, “but I read a lot of books about it,” she laughs.

Then, play professionally with the ultimate goal: the 2028 Olympics.

Jessica pauses a moment: “This is all so surreal.”

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].