Now in our fourth installment of our weekly Q&A’s with LIU Brooklyn student-athletes we have Jessica Rice who is about to enter her sixth year with the LIU Brooklyn Women’s Volleyball team as it tries to repeat as Northeast Conference champions.
Rice is a 22-year-old graduate student from Marlton, New Jersey (near Philadelphia) who went to Cherokee High School. She came to LIU with her twin sister Ashley and was a sports science major as an undergrad and finished her first graduate degree in sports physiology last year and is working on her second master’s now. She’s earned second team All-Northeast Conference honors twice, been named to the NEC Academic Honor Roll, been named to the NEC All-Tournament Team, owns the single-season LIU record in blocks with 164, and was named to the Villanova Classic All-Tournament Team in 2010.
Brooklyn Eagle Sports: Before we get to anything else, I have to ask, how did you come to be in your sixth year of eligibility at LIU?
Jessica Rice: During my freshman and sophomore years, I had two right knee injuries. Freshman year I dislocated kneecap, rehabbed all year, and during the spring season I dislocated it again this time I had to have surgery, rehab, and more physical therapy. It cost me the first two years at LIU.
BES: What happened?
JR: The first time, we were playing St Peters in the third game of the year. I went into a lunge to pass the ball and it went out. The second time, we were at practice doing everyday stuff and I stepped to the right and it just popped out. I wasn’t eligible for surgery the first time, they just gave me a brace and I went through physical therapy, but the second time I had surgery.
BES: How did it feel going through those two seasons injured the way you were?
JR: It was really hard mentally to kind of stay involved with the team and feel like you are apart of the team while sitting on the sidelines. I had my (twin sister Ashley Rice) on the team and all the girls were open and kept me involved as much as possible, but it was still hard.
BES: They won a couple of NEC championships while you were out. Did that make it worse?
JR: No, that was amazing watching the NEC tournaments. I learned so much watching the older girls play. It was a good experience being on the bench watching and taking notes. You learn the game a lot better.
BES: Going through that and now being a sixth year student, are you kind of like a co-coach now?
JR: <laughter> A lot of the girls look up to me a lot. The coaches talk to the captains a lot about what’s going on in practice and if we have any input they take that to heart. Maybe one day I’ll coach, but not right when I’m done. Maybe a few years down the road.
BES: How did you get into volleyball?
JR: Honestly, my sister and I started playing sophomore year of high school. Our school had just gotten a volleyball team and we saw an ad in the paper for tryouts and we’re both tall (both sisters are 6-foot-1) so we decided we should try out.
BES: Why did you pick LIU?
JR: Mostly because it was close to home. It’s about an hour and a half drive from my home. My sister and I have loved New York City and we decided that we would go to college together and since we always liked the city since we were little we kind of gravitated to LIU.
BES: You’re in your sixth year and you’ve already finished one master’s degree. What are you still doing in school?
JR: I’m starting my second master’s degree. My first was in exercise physiology which studies how the body moves and mechanics. I want to get into helping people get fit and helping them to get their body mechanics moving properly to prevent injuries. Right now my second master’s degree is an undeclared liberal arts and science major. Mostly I just came back for the sixth year to finish my volleyball career. I missed my first two years and I felt like I was cut short. I just wanted to finish my collegiate volleyball career strong. I had some unfinished business.
BES: What are your plans for after college?
JR: I want to be a sports performance coach, helping kids and high school athletes to train and be prepared for college sports or sports in general.
BES: Before you decided on LIU, were there any other schools that you and your sister considered?
JR: We were looking at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I went on a visit there, but it’s totally different from the city with a lot of farms and open space, but it was too far from home.
BES: How seriously were you considering it?
JR: My sister and I actually had a verbal commitment there at first, but we came back for a second visit at LIU and that kind of sold us.
BES: How did the second visit have that much of an impact?
JR: I just think our first visit was during the winter and our second one was during the spring or summer. We were just able to walk around and view the city a lot more. I think that made the biggest difference to see how beautiful it was here during the summer.
BES: You and your sister are obviously very close. You mentioned she graduated last year, how did she have five years of eligibility?
JR: Ashley tore her ACL twice.
BES: You both had two major knee injuries?
JR: <Laughing> Yeah. I blame my parents.
BES: So what happened?
JR: She tore her ACL her junior year and then this past season she tore it half way thru again. She tore it in the middle of conference play. We’ve both been in similar situations watching each other going thru rehab and recover, it’s good knowing that you have such great support and who can relate to your situation and what you’re going through.
BES: Did you always plan on going to the same college with her?
JR: Yeah. It was always going to be that way from high school, we didn’t want to be apart. She even had the same major as did, exercise physiology. She graduated last year though and is back home with a full time job. She still comes to visit as much as possible.
BES: Did you plan to have the same major too?
JR: I think it was just kind of we’ve always been interested in the same things and ended up in the same direction. We didn’t think anything of it, it was good to have somebody with you. I love having a sister that is so similar to me.
BES: Were you both recruited by LIU at the same time or was it a situation where one of you have to talk the coach into accepting the other one?
JR: We were recruited by the former coach Toby Rens. We met him at a tournament, I don’t remember which one, but he was at one of our matches and watched us. He approached us after the game and gave us info on the school, asked us for our emails, and said that he was going to reach out to us. We ended up looking up LIU some more and were interested right away. He wanted both of us, but they didn’t have the money at first. Eventually that changed though and we both ended up coming here.
BES: What is it about Brooklyn that the two of you liked?
JR: I love the variety of people here and the culture. The environment is so different than Marlton or anywhere I grew up really.
BES: What’s your favorite thing to do in Brooklyn?
JR: One of my favorite things is walking through Brooklyn Heights and going to the promenade at night. I love just looking up at the skyline from there.
BES: What’s your favorite spot to eat in Brooklyn?
JR: I like sushi a lot so there is a place on Smith Street called Kyoto. A couple of the girls on the team and I like to go there a lot.
BES: Which team are you most looking forward to playing this year?
JR: I don’t know. Our conference has gotten so competitive these past few years and all the games will be a good competition. I’m just excited to start the season. There really isn’t one team that I have my eye on.