Josselyn White: a USU volleyball legend to remember

By Rhett Wilkinson

As her teammate Shay Sorensen was interviewed, Josselyn White sat just inches off the center of the new ‘U-State’ logo in the middle of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. With slender arms draped across her wrapped and once-injured legs, she tilted her head upward toward the arena’s west basket with a look of confidence—having swished 3-pointers moments earlier—that would have caused no fan to mistake her conviction.

Though she wouldn’t have wanted it four years earlier, it seemed as though White owned the arena. Given that Utah State volleyball’s three-year starter at outside hitter was a multiple all-conference honoree and places in the top 10 in several all-time statistical categories, perhaps she at least deserves to claim part of the property.

Perhaps she has lived up to one of her favorite quotes as featured on Facebook and courtesy of former soccer star Mia Hamm: “The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.”

Perhaps that’s why White looked so comfortable at midcourt: a few people in the gym this time around didn’t break her routine.

“Yes. Josselyn has been one of the greatest examples I’ve seen in the teams I’ve been with,” said head coach Grayson DuBose, who completed his seventh year leading the USU program. “She showed younger players how to put in the effort to be successful.”

Accolades abound

Specifically speaking: a 2012 first-team all-WAC selection and multiple all-conference honoree. An all-time USU single-game mark for attack percentage. Fifth and eighth in USU career total blocks attempts and block assists, respectively. Ninth all-time at the school in total kills and career blocks and 10th in total blocks.

Most importantly for the 6-foot-3 brunette: joining best friend Sorensen in winning two WAC championships, the first coming in 2010 with a WAC tournament title after beating nationally third-ranked Hawaii. Then, the regular-season conference title this season. In the WAC Tournament semifinal against fourth-seeded New Mexico State, the Aggies couldn’t beat the southern Aggies for a third straight match. Still, White’s group won 20 matches for the 11th time in school history and posted a 15-3 WAC record after being picked fourth in the preseason WAC poll. It set a school record for most conference wins, bettering the previous mark of 12 Big West Conference wins in 2001.

Another favorite Facebook quote might apply, too, this time from Vince Lombardi: “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

 

Locality logic

For all her talents, fellow seniors and her head coach said White deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest volleyball players in USU history. But DuBose said the fact that the Smithfield native decided to “stick around” to play at Cache Valley’s university, rather than take her talents elsewhere, is partially a reflection of why she has been appreciated in the program.

Having moved to Smithfield from Arkansas at a young age when her father was hired as the head strength coach at Utah State, White can only remember living in one of Utah’s oldest settlements. She graduated from Sky View High School, where she was a stand-out player, earning Valley Player of the Year twice. She most dreamed of leaving Cache Valley throughout high school, particularly after garnering offers from out-of-state schools in leagues traditionally rated better than the WAC.

Ultimately, however, bypassing the opportunity to play collegiately with loved ones watching played a key role in keeping White in Aggie Blue.

“And I am so grateful that I stayed,” she said. “I can’t imagine anymore having been anywhere else.”

“It’s fun to have a local kid who understands the university and who grew up watching Utah State volleyball,” DuBose said. “And we’ve certainly been grateful to have her here. She’s a great kid for the way she helps teammates around her—and, that’s something she’s really developed during her time here.”

Injury insight 

White acknowledged that a concussion and other injuries sustained caused her to miss more than one-third of the 2011 season, when the Aggies struggled to a 12-17 record after getting swept in the first round of the WAC Tournament by Fresno State. It carried into the 2012 campaign, when White missed five matches. Though the injuries slightly linger, White acknowledged that her initial disappointment with her physical setbacks promoted a selfishness she hadn’t displayed in the past in team sports. Understanding her impact on the team as they never gained momentum during the 2011 season, however—they never won more than two consecutive matches, compared with four of three-plus this past fall— helped her understand the need to change perspective.

“Knowing more how much I was counted on, that meant a lot,” White said. “I realized I needed to gain a better attitude, and I loved to see the way we came together so well this year. We really realized the only thing that would stop us was ourselves.”

Perhaps White lived up to her other featured quote on the popular social media site, as found in Isaiah 40:31: “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

But eligibility does.

“From your freshman year, you never think this day will come. Grayson always asks ‘What legacy are you going to leave? One day it will all be over.’ But I would think ‘Here goes this lecture again.’ Now, it’s going to be over,” White said. “It’s weird, especially when you’ve done something for so long. I feel ready though. I think everything has its time and purpose, and for volleyball, that’s coming to an end pretty soon. I’ve accepted it.”

“I will miss Josselyn because she knows what it takes to win,” said Sorensen, an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) honorable mention herself. Featuring a photo of herself with Sorensen in an on-court congratulatory moment as her Facebook profile picture, White mentioned their relationship as one of the main aspects of Logan she will miss.

“She has been a tremendous example to her teammates for her diligence,” Sorensen. “She will be missed here.”

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