Farmington Hills — The volleyball season has been over for two months, but the honors keep piling up for Farmington Hills Mercy senior Jess Mruzik, who was named Gatorade National Player of the Year during a ceremony at the high school Wednesday afternoon.
Mruzik’s senior season was delayed when she competed for the U.S. Girls Youth National Team in the U-18 World Championship in Cairo back in August, earning the tournament’s MVP award while leading her team to the gold medal.
Then, Mruzik was named Miss Volleyball for the state of Michigan leading up to the final week of the season this past November.
“I don’t really aim for all of these accolades that I’ve won,” Mruzik said. “It’s definitely super amazing that I’ve won all of these awards throughout this year and over my volleyball career. This isn’t why I play the game; I play the game because I love the sport and I love my teammates and the competitive atmosphere that comes along with playing volleyball, but this is amazing right now."
Mruzik, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter who will play next year at Michigan, then showed why she earned the honor, coming up with a match-high 34 kills and a .377 hitting percentage, along with 15 digs to lead Mercy to its first state title in program history with a 25-21, 25-12, 23-25, 26-24 win over No. 2 Lowell in the Division 1 championship match at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
Mruzik, who has a 3.47 grade-point-average, had 495 kills with a .635 kill percentage and a .540 hitting percentage during her senior year to lead Mercy to a 59-1 record.
“This is definitely a way to go out with a bang. I came into this program wanting to build it up," she said. "Mercy volleyball had already had such a great reputation with the volleyball program and the history of the school and everything, but I just wanted to take it to the next level and I think that’s what my teammates and I really did this year.”
Farmington Hills Mercy's Jess Mruzik is the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. The Detroit News
Julia Bishop, a junior setter for Mercy, called the honor "amazing."
“It’s so exciting, just amazing for the community and for her personally," Bishop said. "This is so amazing to be able to say that we were all on the same team as her, let alone also be a friend of hers. I’m so proud of her for everything she’s done both on and off the court. I met her when I was in the sixth grade, so she has grown as a person and a player and it’s been beautiful to watch her over the past few years. And, she’s the same person, she just always brings the positive energy and the positive mindset and on the court that really helped us in the state championship match.”
Mruzik is the first volleyball player from Michigan to receive the honor since the Gatorade award was put in place for the sport back in 1996, and that means a lot since Angie McGinnis of Fraser and Alisha Glass of Leland were tremendous players who went on to have outstanding college careers.
McGinnis was as a setter for Florida. Glass, also a setter, led Penn State to three straight national championships, going 102-0 during that stretch, before helping Team USA win a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics.
Drew Henson of Brighton won the Gatorade National Player of the Year award for baseball back in 1998 and Soony Saad of Dearborn won the honor for soccer in 2010.