Welcome back to Over The Net, the weekly interview series with players and coaches from Mizzou Volleyball that’s taking place over the next few months.
This week, I talked to Janet deMarrais, the outside hitter who has taken a major step up in her sophomore year and become a huge part of the team’s attack. In Mizzou’s last match, she broke her career high in kills while playing in her home state of Texas.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Last match (against Texas A&M), you had a career-high in kills. Was there anything you did differently in terms of preparation, or did you have a different feeling before the match?
Janet deMarrais: I’m from Texas, so I definitely wanted to show out in my home state. I had a lot of family there. I just wanted to do well and make it meaningful that they were there, and give them a better reason to go. No, but preparation was all the same. I went through it all and I was just feeling really good before the match.
Did you know at some point during the match that you’d reached a career-high? Did anybody tell you, or did you learn after the match?
JD: I saw it on the big screen during the match. That honestly kind of motivated me to keep pushing and see how far ahead of my last career high I could get.
How did you feel when you saw that on the scoreboard?
JD: It was awesome. I think almost every game that I’ve been playing in, I almost beat my career high from last time. So now I just have a better goal for the next one, just keep going from there.
Does your family usually go to matches when you play back home?
JD: This was the first time that I’ve actually been back in Texas for a game. So yeah, it was special to have them there. They’re gonna make it to the next A&M game this November, I think. Now that I’m playing a lot more, they’ve been coming to more games.
So far this season, how do you think the team has done, and how do you feel like you have done?
JD: We’ve done really well. We practice day in and day out super hard, and we try to practice the way we play, which is why I think we’re having so much success. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve just been trying to lock in every practice. That’s been my motto is just lock in and be aggressive, more aggressive than I was last year. I didn’t see the court a lot, but this year, now that I’m on the court more I’m just trying to do what I can to stay on it as well. But yeah, just being super aggressive, but also being smart with what I’m doing has gotten me to where I am.
What would you say is the biggest area where you’ve improved from last year to this season?
JD: Probably defense, my passing. I wasn’t a six rotation player last year. I used to be a six rotation player a couple years back, but that is something that has come up pretty recently is that I’m now playing six rotations. I used to not serve either and now I’m serving, so I’ve kind of stepped up into a bigger role for myself.
For the rest of the season, is there anything in particular that you are really going to focus on, any area where you can see the biggest room for improvement?
JD: My blocking. I’m not the strongest blocker right now, but I’ve been working every day to ID where my hitters are coming from and where I need to be in order to be in the right spot. The overall vision of what’s happening on the other side is going to help me set up my block a lot better.
This Friday, you’ve got no. 22 Kentucky coming into town. What should Mizzou fans be looking forward to from this next match?
JD: A win, I hope so. It should be pretty packed here. We’re trying to do better on the road because the fewer fans, the more energy we have to provide for each other. But it’s a different environment when we’re all in here. So just kind of feeding off of that, and I think our energy is going to stand out a lot.
What led to you deciding to come to Mizzou?
JD: The coaches played a big part. They recruited very heavily, and I love the way that they recruited me. Being from Texas, it’s basically summer all year round. It’s hot all the time, and I’ve lived there for 14-15 years, so I was ready for someplace with seasons. The weather, the climate, and just Columbia itself were all factors. I actually visited here with my dad during COVID. We took our own trip so it was a ghost town when I came here, but I still found plenty of ways to fall in love with it.
So all those things kind of put together, and I know they used to have a really, really good program, and then the major of choice that I wanted. I was originally a vet med student, which was very difficult to balance with volleyball, so I switched to journalism. I liked it a lot, but it was also a lot of work, almost like being a vet med major but not the same curriculum. I changed my majors around, but that’s another thing is that they’ve had so many options for me, so I knew it was the right choice.
Are you zeroing in on any particular major right now?
JD: I actually just changed my major to sports management with a minor in plant sciences, which are very opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m kind of putting together a major of choice that will fit everything that I want to do.
Have you figured out plans for after graduation, or a general direction you want to take?
JD: I don’t know if I want to play pro yet. I’ve been thinking about it a lot more, and with how I’ve been doing, I can see myself going a lot farther with this than maybe I would have thought I could go last year. But I need to go through the sports management classes first. I haven’t even gone through them yet, so I think I want to go through those and then figure out from there whether that’s something that I want to do or lean back on plant sciences after. Going pro first might be the first thing, and then using my curriculum to base my job after college.
With the coaching change this offseason, you could have jumped into the portal if you wanted to. What made you decide to stay, or what was it about the coaches that made you decide to stay?
JD: The coaches were great. They really wanted everyone to stay. If I would have left, it would have done the same thing as staying here. Since we only had five girls left in the spring, coming in with an abundance of new transfers or grad students or other recruits, plus an entirely new coaching staff, it was pretty much the same as going somewhere else in my opinion. So I decided to make it easier for myself and take a chance and stay here, and I’m really glad I did.
You mentioned earlier that you come from a place where there really aren’t that many seasons, and you mentioned fall. How are you liking fall so far? Is there a favorite part of it for you, or is there anything that you like to do in the fall?
JD: When I’m not playing volleyball, I like going on little hikes, nature walks because there’s so many colors, trees, paths to go on. You know, you don’t get that in Texas. It’s just flat and it’s a lot of buildings and stuff, not so much greenery and the type of climate that we have here. So just getting out and being active with my team, stuff like that.
You talked about the town as a reason you decided to come to Mizzou. Do you have a favorite place to go or thing to do in Columbia?
JD: I like to go to Bud’s BBQ. I love it so much. And Jason the owner is awesome, he loves athletes, too. It feels like a very welcoming place every time I go in there.
Do you have a favorite place to study, or other spot on campus?
JD: I like the student center. I normally go to the top floor where all the couches are, and I can spend a few hours in there and get all I needed to get done for the week.
What was your high school experience like?
JD: It was interesting going through COVID through my high school experience because at one point, during my 17’s year, I wasn’t so much doing school as much as I was doing volleyball. I think that kind of put me ahead, and I was training under Ping Cao. He played for the Chinese men’s national team in the Olympics, so he was very well respected and still is as a coach in Texas. We were having seven-hour practices about four or five times a week, so I was doing more volleyball than school.
As far as school goes, I played six rotations there too, so that kind of jump-started the knowledge of how to play six rotations, as well as club volleyball. We did really well my last two years of high school. We got third in the state my junior year for district 5A, and then we got second in the state the following year. It was a good time.
Do you have a prediction for the LSU game on Saturday?
JD: I’m hoping for a win. Are we 6-0 now?
JD: Okay, so we’re gonna make it 6-0. Sadly, it’s sold out and we can’t even go, but it’s okay because we’re gonna be busy doing our own thing. We play Arkansas this Sunday so that kind of overlaps but we’re hoping for the best for them. And I’m hoping for a win.
Putting aside the matches themselves, what’s your favorite place to travel to in the SEC?
JD: I liked Florida a lot, just because their facility was huge. It was nice. And the campus is beautiful, too. And Tennessee, I love Tennessee’s campus a lot. Those are both really cool.
Do you have anything you want to say to Mizzou fans?
JD: Thank you for the support, and I hope you all keep turning out and showing up. We didn’t have a lot of fan base last year, which kind of happens when you’re not having the best record. But I think Dawn Sullivan has done such a great job getting the community involved and getting them excited to come to games. We keep beating our turnout. Each game is really special. And I hope that we continue that because I want to see a full, packed gym in here someday.
Is there anything else you want to talk about?
JD: Shout out to my family, my wonderful teammates, and all the coaching staff. Not just Dawn, but everyone who’s been a step in this process going forward.