Jonynas looks to bring some “tools” to the volleyball Huskies next season
HOUGHTON — For the last four years, Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball fans have had the pleasure of witnessing the development of a small outside hitting dynamo in the 5-foot-9 Aubrey Ficek. As a senior, she set career highs in sets, kills, kills per set, and many other offensive categories.
While the impact of her graduation will be felt this season, head coach Matt Jennings and his staff may have found an ideal replacement for their offensive force in Orland Park, Illinois, native Anna Jonynas.
Joynas even looks the part, standing 5-foot-9 herself. Part of what drew Joynas to Michigan Tech was the fact that if Ficek could be effective in their offense at her height, Jonynas should be able to slide right in and do the same.
A graduate of Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, which is some 26 miles southwest of Chicago, Jonynas likes the challenge of being an outside hitter and is looking forward to being in the gym when the Pep Band is making noise and cheering her teammates on because she expects that will remind her of her high school gym.
“It’s like the best feeling in the world, I think,” said Jonynas. “When you get a big kill and everyone roars, that’s why I like being a hitter. I mean I like defense and everything, but it is the ‘Wow’ factor that keeps everything going.”
Jonynas played five seasons in the 1st Alliance Volleyball Club, spending last season with the club’s 18U Club Black team. One of her teammates will also see action in the GLIAC as Emily Drenth will be attending Grand Valley State.
Jonynas is excited about seeing her former teammate on the court.
Jonynas’ club is the same program that produced another player Huskies fans are familiar with.
“She actually played for the same club Jackie Aird did,” said Jennings. “Jackie actually made [former assistant coach] Doug [Han] and I aware of her.”
Playing club volleyball helped Jonynas learn how to use her height to her advantage. While she may not carry the overpowering swing that whistles at opponents from high in the air, Jonynas has learned how to take advantage of an attack calling tooling.
“Tooling is when you are going up for a hit and swing into the other blocker’s hand,” said Jonynas. “[The ball] touches them and then it goes out, so you use them [as a tool] to get the point.”
Jonynas had her choice of schools to pick from, but found Michigan Tech, some eight hours from home, to be the best fit for her both athletically and academically.
“I just love the atmosphere up here,” said Jonynas. “I love that everything feels safe and I love that it is a small-town feel. Everyone is nice to each other.”
Being a player with the talent of a Division I player, Jonynas was actually a late addition to the Huskies, but one who immediately drew the attention of Jennings once he saw her step on the floor.
“What you will find is that that Division I/Division II tweener kid, who wants a very specific education, sometimes finding the right fit for them is very hard,” said Jennings. “So, every so often, you will find a kid still out there.
“Anna was, and I went and saw her play. I was floored that she was still available.”
As a junior, Jonynas was an upperclassman on a very good Sandburg team, that finished the high school season ranked 13th in the state of Illinois. Jonynas helped the Eagles to a 30-8 record overall and a 10-0 record in SouthWest Suburban Conference play.
As a senior, the Eagles were ranked 21st in the state, going 27-11 on the season. Jonynas was a key contributor, picking up 344 kills, 289 digs, and 47 aces to help lead her team, earning team Most Valuable Player honors in the process.
Serving as a team captain, Jonynas had to learn how to lead, and she enjoyed the experience.
“I was one of only two seniors on the team,” said Jonynas. “It was more of a building year. We were young, we had a freshman on the team. It was nice taking them under my wing and helping them and seeing them develop.”
Jonynas was recognized for her strong play with two SWSC All Conference selections, two All Area selections, and was named special mention on the News Gazette’s All State list.
With her hitting ability, Jonynas has developed into a six-rotation player, and she actually enjoys the challenge of playing from the back row and is, for lack of a better term, a ball hawk.
“Talk about a true six-rotation kid, she has great touch on the ball, great ball control,” said Jennings. “When she digs or passes, she puts her hand up right away. That means: give me the ball, no matter where she is.”
Jonynas has arrived on campus early to get used campus and the surrounding area. While it does not match the hustle and bustle of a suburb of Chicago, she feels right at home as she is getting used to her new surroundings.
In Jonynas, the Huskies appear to have a player who could prove to be a very versatile hitter and she should give Jennings and his staff options throughout the season and during her four years on campus.