Jess Menden enters her sophomore season as a transfer from TCU. Menden will join Taylor Carico and Megan Wilson as one of three Golden Gopher transfers this year, however she is the only one of the three transfers with local ties to the state of Minnesota. Gophersports.com sat down with Menden to talk about the process of transferring, getting re-acquainted with some teammates she has played with before at different levels and how excited she is to put on the Maroon and Gold.
Gophersports.com: How excited are you to play in your home state at the University of Minnesota, and what lead to your decision to transfer here?
Jess Menden: “I am so excited to have a chance to play for the Gophers. It has always been a dream of mine to play at the Sports Pavilion and in my home state. I think one of the key factors that prompted my transfer was the desire to be closer to my family. There is nothing better than having friends and family at your matches, and having them be able to watch you play.”
GS: What did you learn in your first year of playing college volleyball and the experiences at TCU that will help you heading into this year?
JM: “I learned a lot about time management. The college game is a whole different game is a lot faster pace and also a lot more work. I learned a lot more about determination, will power and focus about the game. Now I have a better understanding of what I need to do in order to make my team successful more than thinking about making myself successful.”
GS: When you look at this year’s roster there are eight Minnesotans on the team, and a lot of talent. How excited are you to have a chance to play with a lot of the players that you were around at the club level and in high school, and getting the chance to play with them at an elite level?
JM: “It is so cool to have that, and play with so many Minnesota girls again. I played with and against a lot of the players on this team through a variety of levels. It is going to be awesome to able to play with them again. This is really a great group girls who work really hard, and it is going to be a great experience working with them again.”
GS: Who out of the Minnesota players on the team have you played with, and what are some of the experiences and places that you have been teammates or opponents of some of the players on this team?
JM: “I played with Brook (Dieter), Lauren (Gibbemeyer) and Hailey (Cowles) in the Northern Lights club program. I have played against Jessica (Granquist) and also Brook, Hailey and Lauren because I have switched clubs. I also have played against Ariana (Filho) when she was in Colorado, and I also played against Katherine (Harms).”
GS: How is the adjustment of coming back to Minnesota from TCU?
JM: “The girls have made it so easy for me. They have gone out of their way to be so nice to me, and have been so welcoming and helpful with everything. They made the adjustment an easy process for me, because I was really stressed out about it.”
GS: What are some of the individual strengths that you can bring the team, and what do you feel you add to the program?
JM: “I am excited to add my work ethic and personality. I think I will click really well with all of the girls from the standpoint that they like to win and do not take losing well. I am really ready to work as hard as they are and focus on playing at an elite level this year.”
GS: How exciting was it to win a state title at Shakopee High School in your senior season?
JM: “That was honestly one of the highlights of my career so far. I could not have topped off a senior year any better. I think it was a really good experience to get to know what it feels like to get to the top. It was just a very memorable time. There is nothing better than winning a state tournament when you are in high school.”
GS: How excited are you about the different dynamics that this team has with the three transfers, a talented group of freshmen and a very good core from last year’s roster?
JM: “I am excited to get that group working together. I think with the freshmen and the incoming new players will be a very good mix of talent on this team. The core players have been really good about getting the freshmen and new players in and together to get to know us more, so we can be on the same page. One of the main goals is to get to know each other better and get on the same page heading into the fall.”
GS: When did you start here at Minnesota and how has the transition been?
JM: “I think I decided to transfer in April, and it was the day after I told my coach that I was transferring that I talked to Minnesota and committed. I got back on May 9 and started back working with the team June 15.”
GS: What has been the atmosphere on the team?
JM: “It has been relaxed, but very intense at the same time. I think we are all trying to figure out each other’s tendencies, but at the same time push each other from a competition standpoint. It is still summer ball and you do not go completely full force at it. \I think mainly that we are still trying to get some touches on the ball right now and keep working and maintain what they had and work to where they are at.”
GS: How excited are you to play that first match at the Sports Pavilion and wear the Maroon and Gold?
JM: “I am ecstatic to finally be in Maroon and Gold. When we came here last year for the Gopher Invitational at TCU, I got hurt in the match before so I did not get to play at the Sports Pavilion. It has always been my dream to play at the Sports Pavilion. To finally be in that Maroon and Gold, and be back on the home court is going to be amazing. I am so excited for the experience.”
GS: What are some of your individual and also team goals for this up coming season?
JM: “I would like to improve all over as an athlete. I still have a long way coming back from my injury. My main goal is to get back to where I was and then some. My overall goal is to help the team go as far as they can.”
GS: What was your injury and how long were you out for?
JM: “I had an ACL tear and I was out for six months last year.”
GS: Where do you feel where you are at right now?
JM: “I have been working very hard to get back to the point where I was before I got hurt. I feel that I am really in a good place right now. I am really close to being there if I am not 100 percent already. I think that getting my mentality back that I will not get hurt again is a big key. It is more of a mental thing than a physical thing.”
GS: How excited are you to get back out there on the court when fall comes back around?
JM: “I am really excited to get the chance to play again. It has been so long since I have been in a full match. I started up until my injury last year, and I have been out since that point. I am very excited to get preseason underway and get into competitive matches against other teams. I am also excited to get out matches started in non-conference play, because we have a very competitive schedule, which will be a lot of fun.”
Gophersports.com will post an interview with Carico in the near future. Following that interview, Gophersports.com will be talking to the incoming freshmen and the returning players on the team throughout the month of July. If there are any questions you would like to ask any of those players feel free to email them to email@example.com.