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September 26, 2013 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-26

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8A - Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Jen Cross: Under the net, over the border

Daily Sports Writer
Jennifer Cross tied her shoes,
slipped on her kneepads and
stretched her long legs out in
front of her. As she took a sip of
water and finished braiding her
hair, she looked around. The rest
of her teammates were also fin-
ishing up last-minute routines
before takingthe court.
Cross couldn't help but smile.
The Canadian national volleyball
team, made up of 30 women, was
heading to Mexico for the 2012
Pan American Games the fol-
lowing day and excitement was
high for the 12-day event. It was
the first year that Cross had been
invited to be a member of the
senior national team.
She was at the peak of her
career - having played weeks of
the best volleyball of her life -
and she was ready to showcase
her talent on the international
The 6-foot-4 middle block-
er proceeded out of the locker
room and onto the court to begin
warming up. Once the coaches
joined the team on court, the last
full practice began.
That was when it happened.,
Cross went up for the block,
like she does routinely, but this
time was different. The ball took
a surprising spin, forcing her
opponent to reach across the net
and land at a weird angle. The
other girl ended up underneath
the net on Cross'ss side. Cross
came down from her block and
landed on her opponent's foot.
Cross suffered a severe ankle
injury but, thinking it was just a
standard sprain, she decided to
accompany the team to Mexico.

Senior middle blocker Jennifer Cross collected her 1,000th career kill in a five-set win over No. 24 Ohio on September 21

Cross, a senior middle blocker
for the Michigan volleyball team,
wasn't supposed to playthe sport,
she wasn't supposed to be eyeing
the Olympics and she most cer- CoURTESY OF CRoSS FAMILY
tainly wasn't supposed to be an Cross was named to the Canadian junior national team on her 16th birthday.
Crossbegan her athletic By-the , hwas15;Oe atop. American~ . ege programs.
playing ice hockey. The Scarbor- was a member of the U-17 All- Even more challenging, Cross
ough, Ont., native stuck with her Star team. On her 16th birthday found herself with little exposure
Canadian roots and played from she was named to the Canadian in the United States because her
the age of three until ninthgrade. junior national team. team rarely traveled across the
"It pretty much consumed my Cross's commitment to volley- border.
life for that whole time," Cross ball became a full-time endeavor Despite this, she became a
said. between high school, club and highly regarded recruit, concen-
Cross comes from an athletic the junior national team. Her trating on the Big Ten and Pac-12
family where hockey has always increased exposure on the court schools because of their high-lev-
reigned supreme. As the baby of el programs. She ultimately chose
the family with two older broth- Michigan because of its balance
ers, she grew accustomed to ice "Looking back between academics and athlet-
hockey all the time. But the mind ics, calling it the "best of both
of a teenage girl can be fickle. now, I w ish worlds."
When Cross was in middle
school, she joined some friends I had stayed 000
playing volleyball.
She knew immediately she home." While she has a deep commit-
wanted to play. With her athletic ment to the Wolverines, Cross,
talent and lanky frame, she fit the who elevated to the Canadian
bill perfectly. senior national team in 2012,
Cross grew fast, but it wasn't only cultivated her talent. Next takes great pride in representing
until 10th grade that she reached stop: college ball. her home country.
her full 6-foot-4 stature. After "The recruiting process for me So it's understandable that,
spending her whole life taller was different because I'm Cana- on the night of the injury, she
than her peers on the ice, she was dian," she said. "The seasons of was still determined to make the
ready to start using her frame as the sports are switched. That trip and enjoy being a member of
an asset, instead of a burden. made it difficult." Team Canada. She had suffered
"The second I started play- Because the Canadian club sprained ankles before - they're
ing volleyball, I knew I loved it," system is not as advanced as the a part of the sport - so she wasn't
she said. "That's when I stopped United States', it's often difficult overly concerned. Thinking
playing all my other sports." for Canadians to find spots in she would miss only a couple of

Cross played ice hockey from the age of 3 until ninth

games, Cross was determined to
accompany her teammates on the
"That night, I realized (the
injury) was much, much worse,
but at that point I wasn't goingto
bail on my team," Cross said. "So
I went to Mexico. But the plane
ride made the injury worse."
The change of cabin pressure
in the airplane caused the blood
to rush to her foot, intensifying
the bruising.
Without Cross, the Canadian
team finished eighth at the Pan
American Games. While her
teammates were competing,
Cross spent the 12 days in Mexico
unable to walk.
At the time, Cross wanted to
do the right thing by traveling
with her team and supporting it.
"Looking back now, I wish I
had stayed home," Cross said. "I
thought I'd be OK, but I turned
out not being OK."
During the trip, Cross had to
make a tough call to Michigan
coach Mark Rosen. Realizing the
injury had worsened, Cross knew
she had to admit to herself, and
then to Rosen, that she needed to
begin the recovery process.

and we
with h
that, w
her bac
to t
to Ann
ing sta
in July

therapy compression system.
White worked with her every day
and the two alternated between
compression and cold ice water
for weeks.
Once again, Cross's determi-
nation took over, and after don-
ning a walking boot for just two
weeks, Cross was finally able to
walk again without crutches and
move toward returning to the
Cross roared back from her
After missing just the first
week and a half of preseason, she
was back on the court with her
Astonishing everyone, she
found her groove quickly and
helped lead Michigan to its best
season in program history.
ALLISON FARRAND/Daily "It's very hard to get back from
that sort of injury just because
you want to be able to push your-
self in practice and get back to
playing, but if you get back to
playing too soon, you can really
hurt yourself in the long run,"
Cross said.
Still, in the first game of the
season, Cross put up seven kills
and five block assists. Not too
shabby for a player coming off an
injury with restricted practice
In preseason, with Cross's
injury and teammate Claire
McElheny suffering from an
Achilles flare, the Wolverines
were thin at her position. The
team had one middle blocker to
fill three spots.
"It was then that we went to
Cross and said, 'OK we need you
to be active even though you're
not 100 percent,' " Rosen said.
Cross rose to the occasion,
even though playing slowed her
recovery process. As she returned
to form, her play improved. Cross
eventually went on to average
1.24 blocks and 2.6 kills per set
COURTESY OF CROSS FAMILY while leading the team with a
h grade. .305 hitting percentage. She also
set the program's single-season
e Canadian program record in total blocks with 181.
d to take her with them, Her success last season also
didn'tget to communicate put her on record watch for the
er until she was already in 2013 season.
r on her flight to (Mexico)," She currently holds sole pos-
said. "If we had a say in session of third place on the pro-
e would've said, 'Let's get gram's career total blocks list
ck to Ann Arbor and start with 455, needing only 17 more
ing her."' to break Lindsay Miller's (2004-
r talking to the cool- 2007) school record of 473. Cross
also only needs 34 block assists to
break Katrina Lehrman's (1999-
Ve need you 2002) record of 419. In addition,
Cross recorded her1000th career
e active even kill in Michigan's win over Ohio
on Sept. 2L
Lough you're Even with program records in
plain sight and an All/American
100 percent." title under her belt Cross still
has her injury in the back of her
"A lot of the injury is mental,"
I Rosen, the two decided it Cross said. "Since recovering, the
be best for Cross to return hardest part for me is landing
Arbor and make use of because I'm scared. It's all about
an's top-of-the-line train- trusting yourself again, trusting
ff. She returned to campus your body and pushing through
y and immediately began all the pain. My ankle still hurts
ing. now, but that's the way it's going
s worked with Timothy to be."
the volleyball trainer, uti- The Wolverines' 2012 season
a physical therapy device culminated with a loss in the
as Game Ready, a cold Final Four. Cross was selected

as a third-team All American fol-
lowing the tournament run. Her
success last year put her on the
preseason All-Big Ten team at the
start of 2013, joining teammates
Lexi Erwin and Lexi Dannemi-
She also has her sights set on
the Olympics.
"The Canadian national team
has struggled in the last 20
years," Cross said. "The team is
focused on making a charge for
the Olympics and the Olympic
qualifying season."
This past summer, the Wol-
verines took a trip to Brazil and
Argentina, which cut into Cross's
time with the national team.
"Obviously my commitment is
to Michigan first and the national
team second so I wasn't able to
spend the summer in Winnipeg
this year," Cross said. "But we're
working hard to qualify for the
. Fourteen months ago, Cross
was worried about playing vol-
leyball again. Now she's working
toward a repeat performance for
Michigan in the Final Four and
eyeing the 2016 Olympics in Rio
& LEARN MORE de Janeiro.
This time, she hopes to have a
softer landing.



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