It didn’t take long for two-time Super-State volleyball captain Jaela Zimmerman’s future college coach, Creighton’s Kirsten Bernthal Booth, to know Zimmerman was much more than just a top recruit that the Bluejays would love to land.
“When I got to know Jaela, I felt strongly she was a 'Creighton kid,'" Booth said. “I often found myself saying to our staff, 'I sure hope we get the opportunity to coach her.' What I mean is Jaela is so much more than a volleyball player. I see her as a culture building type.”
A lot happened between when the “culture builder” from Malcolm verbally committed to Creighton during her sophomore year and when she finally signed her letter of intent Nov. 8. A lot that easily could’ve shifted a young recruit's mind if, as Booth said, she wasn’t Creighton kid.
Other offers started flooding in for Zimmerman after the initial interest from the Jays. While the recruiting letters started piling up, Zimmerman was guiding her team to a 34-1 season and a berth in the state title match while landing her first Super-State team captaincy.
Through it all, Zimmerman remained consistent and steadfast with her commitment to Creighton.
“The coaches and the girls were just welcoming and great. I could talk to them about anything,” Zimmerman said. “It means so much to me that Coach (Booth) would say that. They have such a great program, so it is such an honor.”
The only thing that matches Zimmerman’s character is her superiority on the court. It takes a special season to match what she did in 2016 and, unsurprisingly, she found a way to surpass it this season on her way to back-to-back Super-State captain honors.
A .484 hitting percentage led to 568 kills this year, which was the second-most in the state and would’ve led any class except for C-1.
“(Being honorary captain for the second straight year) is a blessing and it’s great to know that all my hard work and all the coaches and people that helped me along has paid off,” Zimmerman said. “It really shows what hard work does.”
Booth might’ve been on to something when she touted Zimmerman as a culture builder, because that’s just what she and her fellow seniors did at Malcolm, a school that has now become known for its volleyball.
“These four seniors really established our program four years ago,” Malcolm coach Amber Dolliver said on senior night. “Obviously Jaela is such a well-rounded player, but all these girls came in with the heart, the desire and the worth ethic to want to win.”
Dolliver’s praise continued after Zimmerman was once again named honorary captain.
“Jaela is an amazing volleyball player but her attitude and leadership make her who she is,” she concluded. “She is always giving 110 percent and she pushes herself and her teammates to their fullest potential.”