INDIANAPOLIS - An NCAA selection committee selected Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) nominee Jenna Grasmeyer from Hope College as one of its Top 30 candidates for the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, the organization announced Thursday.
“It is quite an incredible honor to be chosen to the top 30,” said Grasmeyer. “I definitely did not expect it because so many other female student-athletes have made an impact (on others).
“I feel very blessed by the experiences and opportunities that Hope gave me. My coaches, teammates and professors empowered me to take risks and step out of my comfort zone and to never settle.”
Hope’s head volleyball coach Becky Schmidt may have expected that response from Grasmeyer.
“It is amazing to me how humble she is able to be given all of the accolades that she has earned,” said Schmidt. “She always tries to deflect credit to her teammates or others, that’s one of the characteristics that shines through about her.”
Now in its 25th year, the NCAA Woman of the Year Award recognizes graduating female student-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
Hope’s co-athletic director Melinda Larson commented on the nomination of Grasmeyer earlier this year.
“We easily settled on Jenna as our nominee,” said Larson. “I think there was even one category where we exceeded the lines for the online nomination form.
“I think in a special way, while being such a good athlete, she represents Division III because she is involved across the board. She put in the same effort to become a great student as she did to be such an outstanding athlete. She took advantage of leadership opportunities and took the time to put in many hours of community service. That’s what we strive for in Division III.”
Grasmeyer was a standout performer in volleyball throughout her four years at Hope, leading the Flying Dutch to their first NCAA Division III National Championship in 2015 while earning Most Outstanding Player honors for the tournament.
She graduated in May with a 3.79 grade point average in exercise science collecting numerous academic honors along the way. As a member of Hope's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), she planned and coordinated a campus-wide food drive that contributed 2,000 items to a local food bank and was heavily involved in countless volunteer efforts.
“Being a Division III student-athlete is just an amazing experience because you have so many other opportunities to be involved with not only your teammates and coaches but with other groups on campus like SAAC,” said Grasmeyer.
The NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee chose Grasmeyer as one of the top 10 honorees in Division III. The volleyball national champion emerged from among 51 Division III nominees and a record 147 student-athletes from all three divisions by conferences and independent colleges.
“As a student-athlete I learned so many lessons that I am excited to take with me into graduate school,” added Grasmeyer.
Grasmeyer is currently a graduate student studying occupational therapy at Grand Valley State University this fall after realizing her interest in the discipline while volunteering in community service at Hope.
“One of the most important volunteer opportunities for me at Hope was working with the Special Needs Aquatics Therapy Program,” recalled Grasmeyer. “I was able to work one-on-one with kids with disabilities in a therapy pool on a weekly basis. That experience really kind of shaped what I wanted to do as my future career. It was just a great way to give back and be involved in the community.”
Her former head coach thinks she will have a successful career.
“She is going to connect with her patients in a really profound way,” said Schmidt. “Even though she did not have major obstacles to overcome she is going to inspire people to reach their potential. She has done that, so people are going to be able to follow her example.”
Larson agreed with that sentiment, “As a health care provider I think she will be able to care for the soul of people as well as the body. It is just genuine, you can just tell that she really does connect well with people and care about them.”
Grasmeyer was just as impressive on the court as a four-time All-MIAA first team selection and a three-time first team American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American. She led Hope to a 58-6 record in MIAA play and a 120-17 overall mark during her four years. Grasmeyer served as team captain in her junior and senior years and set numerous school records during her career.
“Being a complete student-athlete molded me into the person that I am today,” said Grasmeyer. “I experienced a lot of challenges but came through with some amazing successes like our national championship.”
Coach Schmidt hopes to see more student-athletes like Grasmeyer enter Division III.
“Jenna represents the best of what we expect in Division III with regards to being a complete student-athlete,” said Schmidt. “She is a great representative of being disciplined both on the court and in the classroom.
“I certainly hope we get to coach another student-athlete like Jenna, but being realistic, I think she is pretty unique. The legacy she leaves is that you can do it all.”
Nine finalists, including three in each division, will be named at the end of September. The winner will be announced during an October 18 ceremony in Indianapolis.
Now a Top 30 Finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year, when asked what she would like a 30-for-30 documentary to showcase about her, the daughter of Mark and Karla Grasmeyer replied as you might expect.
“I would love to talk about occupational therapy and what it means to my life and how I want to impact the lives of others,” said Grasmeyer. “But I would never pass up an opportunity to talk about a National Championship either!”