At 11 a.m. on a Friday in characteristically busy Frazier Hall, it would be easy to overlook sophomore Jordyn Kuchenbrod. Dressed in athletic clothes and an oversized jacket, she appears quiet and shy as she makes her way through the crowd. You would never guess that she spends most of her time on the volleyball court aggressively diving to the floor to pass the ball for the Bellarmine team.
Jordyn is the team’s libero—the defensive player whose job is to keep the ball in play—and she’s good at what she does: She’s the leading libero in division II volleyball, and after a record-breaking 2016 season, she became the first All-American player in Bellarmine volleyball history.
A Louisville native, Jordyn began playing volleyball in the third grade at St. Martha Catholic School. “I just saw a bunch of girls playing and thought it looked like a fun sport, so I just picked it up,” she said. Two years later, she joined her first club volleyball team at Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Academy (KIVA), where she was able to develop her skills at a more advanced and competitive level.
“In grade school I played basically every sport, but I just ended up choosing volleyball because I liked it best and I was good at it,” she said. Her goal since grade school was to play college volleyball. Bellarmine was a great fit because it provided the comfort of personal connections and a smaller environment, which was appealing to her.
Head Volleyball Coach Jennifer Grzebin played a crucial role in her recruitment. As her club volleyball coach at KIVA, Coach Grzebin saw potential in Jordyn that most coaches had underestimated in the past. “I thought, this is a kid that’s been playing, maybe even been overshadowed by some other defensive players, [and] just needs the stage to be great on,” she said.
Jordyn has done just that, and even more impressively, she has done it in a position that Coach Grzebin refers to as a “non-glory position.” In reality, the libero is one of the most difficult to play. It is the only position that plays back court defense for the entire game, never rotating to the front row. It’s the libero’s job to dig up hard-driven balls to start off a rally. Without an effective libero, a team has little chance of winning a game.
“I think the hardest thing about [playing libero] is that you’re constantly under the gun,” said John Spugnardi, Bellarmine’s Sports Information director. “After you’ve thrown yourself on the floor, you’ve got to get back up and find the ball and read the offense … try to figure out where the ball’s going to go and get yourself in position to get there.”
Jordyn has broken some of the most impressive records in Bellarmine volleyball history in her short two years of play. She has a career record of 1,427 digs since joining the team in 2015. Last year she passed the record of former libero Jaclyn Ohlmann for single season digs with 788. During an especially impressive match in 2016 against Ashland, Jordyn had 40 digs in a three-set match, which landed her at No. 5 on the list for most match digs in Bellarmine volleyball history.
“She’s kind of unassuming, she’s sitting out there with her shirt tail untucked, but man, when the match starts she’s laser focused and on point,” Spugnardi said.
During the 2016 season she earned her most prestigious honor yet: All-American status on the Conference Commissioner’s Association All-American Team. “When you think about all the universities, all the division II schools in the country and her name to be in that mix on such a small team is incredible,” Coach Grzebin said. “It just speaks to how hard she’s worked to get there.”
As a student athlete, Jordyn spends most of her time in the gym or in class, but she makes sure to take time for what matters most to her—nurturing relationships with family and friends. “I like to hang out with them as much as I can. School is a main focus too. My coach is really good about making sure we put our schoolwork first.”
Jordyn is a sports administration major, which allows her to pursue her passion in and out of the classroom. She is interested in coaching or working for an athletic department in the future and says that as long as she stays in the sports field, she will be happy.
As a sophomore, there is really no limit to what Jordyn can continue to achieve for Bellarmine volleyball. And achieving All-American status at such a young age gives her the credibility and opportunity to play pro or Olympic volleyball in the future. While she is not sure that is the path she will take, she admits it would be an amazing, worthwhile experience.
“I think that her career will be as long as she wants it to be,” Coach Grzebin said. “If she wants to go overseas and play, she’s been recognized on a national scale now so she’ll really earn some respect there … and I’m excited to see what she does with it.”
By Emily Gahafer
Emily Gahafer, a senior communication major at Bellarmine, played volleyball from sixth grade through her sophomore year of high school.