Jenny Kropp takes the titles, including seven of them this year, with a lot of pride.
There’s one crown she dismisses as a joke.
“Some magazine names somebody every year the Sexiest Swimsuit Bikini Model Athlete, and for some reason, in 2009, they named me,” said Kropp, who played for the Nebraska volleyball team from 1998-2001 and helped NU to a 34-0 record and a national title in 2000.
“I’m a lot older now, 33, and older and wrinklier and honestly, I don’t feel I look that good, even in a bikini,” she said.
Kropp looks just fine to the competition, though.
The 6-foot-2 middle blocker is No. 5 in the USA Beach Volleyball rankings. She trails only Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor and silver medalists Jen Kessy and April Ross.
Kropp and partner Whitney Pavlik are ranked No. 1 after their seven victories, two runner-up finishes and three third-place finishes in 13 events this season.
Kropp is ranked along with Walsh Jennings as the top blocker on the circuit.
“I love this game and we have a lot of fun,” said Kropp, who played indoor volleyball professionally for a time in Puerto Rico. “This is so different than anything I’ve done before. I’m playing to eat and pay bills. It’s a lot of stress to play a minimum of six games in two days in the heat and on the sand.
“Sand volleyball makes the six-girl volleyball seem easy, and don’t tell Coach (John) Cook that,” she said with a laugh. “This is a completely different game. We have the two of us covering a court that’s only two feet narrower and three feet shorter and you have to cover a lot of ground.
“And I can tell you, a tournament in the sand leaves me feeling like I got run over.”
Kropp and Pavlik won the Huntington Beach Tournament on Sunday. Three weeks ago, the duo won the Manhattan Beach title for the second consecutive year – “Like winning a major in tennis,” Kropp said.
Kropp’s success has been nothing less than phenomenal.
The former Husker captain and All-American won in Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has earned more than $100,000 this year.
“It’s not the money we used to make on the AVP Tour, like $25,000 to win a tournament, but we’re getting more sponsors and more attention.”
After the stint in Puerto Rico, Kropp was done with volleyball. She lived in California. Her roommate, who played beach volleyball for fun, spent the better part of a year trying to convince Kropp, who worked in sales with Cintas, to try sand volleyball.
“I was in love with volleyball again and this is the way I make a living now,” said Kropp, whose uncle, Tom Kropp, coaches men's basketball at Nebraska-Kearney.
Jenny Kropp was named the rookie of the year in 2007 in the non-defunct AVP Tour, and has since found winning ways in the various tours that have filled in.
“Whitney and I are like sisters on and off the court,” Kropp said. “We travel together, play together and practice together. My husband (Adam Goess) is also there for support, but Whitney and I have to get along and help each other to have any success.
“And, yes, there are times when my husband will ask if Whitney was mad at me or I was upset with her because somebody rolled their eyes or yelled during a game, but that’s part of the competition.”
Kropp and Pavlik will travel to Thailand next month to play in 18 events. The international competition will help them and could lead to competing in the Olympics next time around, Kropp said.