Senior Jenny Shull is Duke's primary libero/defensive specialist. Shull may be the shortest on the team by a reported four inches, but is not short on talent. She posted back-to-back 600+ dig seasons in 2005 and 2006, holds the second and third spots in the Blue Devil record books for single-season digs, and is quickly approaching Duke's record for career digs. Shull has been instrumental in the Blue Devils' success and current No. 11 ranking.
How did you get started playing volleyball?
I've always played sports throughout my life, every different kind of sport. My parents had always made us try out for absolutely everything, and a club was getting started when I was in the sixth grade. So the owner of the club came up to me because I played Little League Baseball with his nephew, and asked if we wanted to try playing club volleyball, so my sister and I started playing in the sixth grade.
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far as an athlete?
You play sports thinking, "I want to get a scholarship to college. I want to get a scholarship to college," so being able to get a scholarship to college and having that college be Duke is by far my greatest accomplishment.
What do you still hope to accomplish in the future?
I'm definitely pushing for Final Four. I've seen the program change, completely change since I've been here. We've improved so much every year and now, you know, we have a number 11 ranking, and we see that we're good enough to be at the top. We have a long year ahead of us to improve even more, so I'm gonna go ahead and shoot big and push for Final Four.
Who was your most influential role model?
I would say my role model is my immediate family because that's who I'm around all the time, but probably my sister who is a year ahead of me. She has always just been a great athlete, a great volleyball player. She played at Tampa Bay State and she's been a great example for me my whole life - balancing school, academics, a social life. I've always just wanted to be exactly like her so it's been good.
What was it like growing up in such an athletic family, with your brother playing baseball and your sister volleyball?
Yes, both of them are super athletic. We probably have the most competitive family alive, which has been pretty fun whether it's board games or sports. Winning has always been a big issue, and has been really good for my athletic ability because my brother and sister have pushed me my entire life. All we do is play games. No matter what it is, we make a sport out of everything possible.
What was the best advice you ever received from a coach?
(laughs) Don't let anyone tell you you're too short to play volleyball. I am the shortest one on the team, I am about 5'4, 5'5. It's definitely supposed to be a sport for tall people, so that's the best advice I ever got.
Can you explain to people who may not know what the libero is?
The libero is like the defensive position on the team. It's a defensive specialist but instead of only being able to be in only three rotations, you're able to be in five and a half rotations, so pretty much the entire game. You wear a different color jersey and when you go in and out of the game, you're a free sub, so it doesn't count against you to use it because you only get 15 subs a game. Subbing does become an issue in long matches. A libero is a free sub and they get to go in for the front row players. It's just a great utility for the college game.
So does that mean you can't score?
I always have to stay in the back row. An attack is getting above the net and hitting it to the other side for points. I'm not allowed to attack at all if I get above the net, but luckily I'm so short (and) I don't have the biggest hops in the world so when I attack I don't get above the net, which is very rare for anyone - to not get above the net - so it actually works out really well for me. I've played outside hitter my whole life so I have a lot of shots and I still get to use them as a libero while other liberos usually either pass the ball over or stay on their feet when they hit the ball over.
What was your most memorable moment in sports?
Most memorable moment... There have been so many memorable moments. Gosh, I wish we would have gotten that USC match this weekend, that would have been the most memorable! Instead, I would say last year winning the ACC championship was incredible. It wasn't like an exact moment because we had clinched it early. Then I would say when we received our rings. I haven't taken it off since except for practice. Receiving the ACC championship ring was pretty incredible.
What is it like playing in a conference like the ACC?
It's just a thrill. I feel like our conference is underrated, when every team in our conference is so competitive and so athletic, and I think the ACC is actually a really strong conference where every night is anyone's game. It's whoever brings it that night. I feel like the competition is really equal in the ACC so it's exciting to go out there and know you don't have any nights to just take it easy and relax. You're going out and you're giving it your all every night.
Why did you choose Duke?
I think after working so hard academically AND athletically in high school, that's what you look for in a college, so I really wanted to find that - find the best of both worlds - and Duke is definitely the answer to that.
What is it like being so far away from home, and how was that adjustment?
It is NOT bad at all. I actually absolutely love North Carolina, so it's been a great transition for me and I've had no trouble at all. When I go home, I love it at home and when I come here, it's like my second home. My parents definitely have not heard me complain one time.
What are your plans after you graduate?
I have a job offer already. I interned in the summer and I have a job offer in Southern California working with Samsung in their marketing department. I have to decide in January so I'm not 100% sure if I'm taking it. I'm still having issues of if I'm able to leave volleyball or not, so gonna make sure that there are no more volleyball opportunities before I decide to take that job.
Jenny Shull and the Duke Blue Devils return to the court this weekend at the Nebraska Ameritas Players Challenge in Omaha, Neb. They take on top-ranked Nebraska at 8:00 pm tonight (Fri. 9/7), and will play either Louisville or New Mexico State tomorrow (Sat. 9/8). Duke returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 7:00 pm for a tilt with ACC rival Wake Forest.