Top volleyball players: Mercy's Jess Mruzik gets a boost from international competition

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Jess Mruzik

Farmington Hills – Jess Mruzik would be forgiven for sleeping in class last Tuesday.

Mruzik had just returned home from Egypt where she was named tournament Most Valuable Player after leading the U.S. Girls Youth National Team to the U18 World Championship in Cairo.

Mruzik is not only the top volleyball player in Metro Detroit and Michigan, but also one of the top players in the nation.

Mruzik got back to Farmington Hills Monday morning at 12:30 after a long trip that included a four-hour flight from Cairo to Vienna, Austria; a 13-hour flight from Vienna to Los Angeles; and a four-hour flight from L.A. to Detroit.

“It took me two or three days before I caught up,” Mruzik said. “I was absolutely exhausted in school.”

Nevertheless, Mruzik thoroughly enjoyed her volleyball experience in Egypt.

More: Top volleyball teams: Will Farmington Hills Mercy finally break through this year?

“It was awesome, like a totally different world playing international volleyball, and also a totally different world in Egypt too,” Mruzik said. “We were in Egypt 10 days, but I was gone from here two and a half weeks because we trained in Anaheim first, which was cool because the women’s national team and men’s national team was there too.

“We played Italy in the championship game on Saturday. We had lost to them in pool play in five (games) and we beat them in five games for the title, so it was a little revenge match. I thought I played pretty well. Every day we kind of focused on getting better every time we walked on the court. That’s something that I tried to take advantage of, and I’m glad it paid off.”

Mruzik credited her teammates for her MVP award.

 “It’s crazy,” she said. “It still hasn’t set in that we won the world championship. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been MVP if it weren’t for the teammates and the coaches that I had, so a lot of credit has to go to them because they pushed me.”

Mruzik says she has improved the most in her hitting.

“I also feel my serve and pass has gotten a lot better too, because internationally that’s something that they take really, really seriously,” she said.

And now it’s on to the high school season for Mruzik. Farmington Hills Mercy has advanced to the state finals the last two years, but lost each time in the state semifinals at Battle Creek. Mercy has never won a state championship.

Mruzik is a dominant 6-foot-2 outside hitter, coming away with 404 kills and a .410 hitting percentage to help Mercy win the Catholic League title last season. She will be playing at Michigan next year.

“We’re really hungry this year for a state championship,” Mruzik said. “We’ve lost in the semis the last two years, which is obviously disappointing, but more motivation for us this year.”

Mruzik has the respect and admiration of her teammates.

“I’ve known Jess for a really long time, played with her since freshman year and she is awesome and so talented, but the thing that I love about her is that she pushes everyone as hard as she pushes herself and I think that’s really important,” said Mercy senior defensive specialist Genevieve Sale. “She gives us the respect as a team even though she’s so high up in the volleyball world, and she’s not cocky, she’s very humble, just a great teammate.”

Other top players

2. Alexa Rousseau, 6-3, senior, setter, Bloomfield Hills

Rousseau has been a dominant player since she was a freshman and enters her senior year as a Miss Volleyball finalist. She has a great combination of size and athleticism and has developed into a great leader, as well.

“Alexa is an outstanding player, just been so consistent,” said Bloomfield Hills coach Larry Wyatt. “It’s so nice to see her become a great leader on and off the court.”

Rousseau, who averaged nine assists, four digs, five kills and two aces last season, will play at Northwestern.

3. Kendall Murray, 6-1, senior, outside hitter, Ann Arbor Skyline

Murray had 732 kills, 357 digs and a .327 hitting percentage during her junior year to help Skyline reach the Division 1 regional final.

“She’s an all-around player, plays six-rotation, is the team captain and definitely brings a lot to the game from the offense, and defensively she can dig a lot of balls,” said coach Chris Cristian of Murray, who will play at Michigan. “She’s an outside hitter who terminates the ball really well.”

More: Volleyball star Kendall Murray will be a Wolverine, just like late father Vada

4. Julia Bishop, 6-0, junior, setter, Farmington Hills Mercy

Bishop was outstanding during her sophomore season, dishing out 1,373 assists while owning a .570 hitting percentage to help Mercy reach the Division 1 state semifinals.

“She just runs everything and she’s just a very special player,” said Mercy coach Loretta Vogel. “She sees the game and makes it happen.”

Bishop is a Michigan State commit.

5. Ceila Cullen, 6-1, senior, outside hitter, Brighton

Cullen is a great athlete and versatile player who can play as an outside hitter or setter, earning a spot as a Miss Volleyball finalist.

“Celia is an exceptionally good athlete who is 6-foot-1 and almost touches 10 feet,” Brighton coach Scott Pitcher said. “She played on the Legacy (U-18) national championship team and sets and plays as a right-side hitter and is hitting close to .500 for us.”

Cullen will play at Michigan State.

6. Ava Brizard, 6-0, sophomore, outside hitter, Birmingham Marian

Brizard is one of the top players in the state for the 2022 class.

“Ava was our top hitter last year as a freshman,” Marian coach Mayssa Bazzi said. “She serves well, she passes well, really does everything well. She already has one or two offers, definitely getting a lot of interest from some big-time schools.”

7. Serena Nyambio, 6-1, sophomore, middle hitter, Detroit Country Day

Nyambio, like Brizard, is one of the top players in the state for the 2022 class.

“Serena is very athletic, jumps really well and is very powerful,” said Country Day coach Kim Lockhart. “She’s being very highly recruited by a lot of Big Ten schools, just playing very well for us.”

8. Kate Stration, 5-10, senior, outside hitter, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek

Stration is an all-around strong player who can pass, play great defense and terminate the ball, a reason Stoney Creek won the OAA Red Division championship last season and is one of the top teams this year. She will play next year at Cornell.

9. Aly Borellis, 5-10, sophomore, outside hitter/setter, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep

The versatile Borellis can play multiple positions. She helped Notre Dame Prep reach the Division 2 state championship match last season.

“Aly has tremendously improved her game as a setter and is getting a lot of attention from Division 1 schools,” said Notre Dame Prep coach Betty Wroubel.

10. Morgan Lockhart, 6-0, sophomore, outside hitter, Detroit Country Day

Lockhart has size, athleticism and a terminating shot ability, a reason she is being recruited by multiple Big Ten schools.

“Morgan’s a strong jumper who can block and hit, has a heavy arm swing where she leads the team in kills,” said Country Day coach Kim Lockhart, also Morgan’s mother.