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MIAC Profiles of Excellence: Emma Jaynes, College of St. Benedict
by Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist
The first and foremost trait coaches look for in recruits is talent. However, a good coach knows that sheer talent is not enough for an athlete to succeed - there needs to be a competitive drive and a desire to improve. Without question, Emma Jaynes is a talented volleyball player. Her drive for excellence made it possible for her to become an All-American. Those attributes have helped her earn a place among the all-time greatest players at the College of St. Benedict.
She has been named All-Region three times, and she was named All-American Second Team her junior year. (This year’s All-American selections have not yet been named.) Emma has been named to the All-MIAC First Team three years in a row. She also holds the St. Benedict school records for career kills (1,515), digs (1,871) and double-doubles (75). As a junior, she shared the St. Benedict Athlete of the Year honor with Mary Schletty of the track and field team.
That same determination has enabled her to excel in the classroom, where she has been recognized as an Academic All-American this fall. She was an Academic All-District selection last year and again this year, as well as a three-time Academic All-MIAC honoree.
“Emma is a strong leader with excellence in academics as well as athletics,” states her coach, Michelle Blaeser. “She serves as a great role model by her work ethic, coachability, competitive nature, and love for the game and life. She brings a high level of experience and quality of play. Emma is always striving for excellence in every aspect of her life. As a coach, I am proud to be able to have such a talented athlete who is always reaching for new heights.”
The middle of three children, Emma grew up in Hibbing, a city of 17,000 on Minnesota’s Iron Range. She and her older brother, Taylor, attended Hibbing High, where younger sister Allie is a senior. Emma played basketball and softball as well as volleyball for the Bluejackets. On the diamond, she was their starting catcher for three seasons, after playing a backup role as a freshman. She earned All-Conference honors her junior and senior year and was named to the All-Area team by the Hibbing Daily Tribune. “We didn’t do well in the playoffs,” she recalled. “We lost in the first round of Section play each year.”
Emma made the varsity basketball team as a ninth-grader and moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore, playing forward. “We had a new coach come in my sophomore year, with a new attitude and philosophy,” she said. “We lost in the first round of playoffs that year, but improved each year.” They were eliminated in the middle rounds of Section play in Emma’s junior year, but went 23-2 in her senior season. “We lost to Hermantown 76-75 in overtime the Section final,” she said.
Each of the three seasons she started, Emma was named to the All-Conference team. The Daily Tribune named her to its All-Area team her senior year, as did the Duluth News Tribune. She was selected to play in the North All Star Game following that season.
In volleyball, Emma played on the Hibbing JV as an eighth-grader, but suited for the varsity in the playoffs that year. She took over as a starting outside hitter as a freshman and was named All-Conference Honorable Mention. She earned All-Conference First Team honors as well as All-Area each of the next three seasons as the Bluejackets advanced to the State Class 3A tourney each year. “We finished fourth my sophomore and senior years, and seventh my junior year,” Emma recalled. She was named to the All-Tournament Team her junior and senior years. After her senior season, both the Duluth and Hibbing newspapers named her Area Player of the Year.
Away from sports, Emma was active in SADD for four years, and served as the group’s president her senior year. She also was involved in Positive Peers throughout high school, as well as Positive Pals. “Positive Peers is a peer mentoring program, where high school kids mentored other high schoolers,” she explained. “Positive Pals had us working with elementary school kids, giving them a positive role model.”
Emma was a member of the National Honor Society. She was a Junior Rotarian and was active in the American Association of University Women during her senior year.
She was in the concert and marching bands for four years, playing the clarinet. She was a flag captain in the marching band.
Coming out of high school, Emma was recruited by many of the Division II and III schools in the area for volleyball, but looked nearly exclusively at Concordia University in St. Paul and St. Benedict. “I wanted to be somewhere that felt like home,” she said. “I visited Concordia, but did not like being in the Big City. When I visited St. Ben’s, I liked the quietness of the campus and the sense of community among the people I met. I was impressed with the passion they had, too.”
She has been a fixture on the Blazers’ volleyball team since her first season. She has played in all 128 of CSB’s matches in her four seasons, sitting out only three games of 487.
Her first year, Emma helped St. Ben’s to a tie for sixth place and a berth in the MIAC Playoffs. They defeated Carleton 3-1 and Gustavus 3-1 before falling 3-1 to Concordia in the title match. Emma was second on the team with 323 kills and 417 digs, as the Blazers posted a 15-13 record.
The next year, CSB improved to 8-3 in MIAC play, sharing second place with Concordia. Emma earned All-MIAC honors after finishing ninth in the league in kills. CSB beat Concordia 3-2 in the semifinals of the MIAC Playoffs but lost 3-0 to St. Thomas for the title. St. Benedict’s received an at-large slot in the NCAA Division III tourney but lost 3-0 to Bethel in the opening round to finish the season 21-11. Emma, who led CSB with 400 kills and 501 digs, was named to the All-Central Region team and was All-American Honorable Mention.
Last fall, Emma and the Blazers had one of the most successful seasons in school history. After going 9-2 and securing second place in the conference, they were upended by Saint Mary’s, 3-2, in the semifinals of the MIAC Playoffs. However, they were awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA tourney, and caught fire. They downed Simpson, UW-Eau Claire and Concordia in succession, all by identical 3-1 scores, to reach the NCAA Final Eight. They lost in the opening round to Emory, 3-1, to close the campaign 29-7. Emma earned All-MIAC honors as she finished in the top 10 in the league in hitting percent, kills and digs. She led CSB in kills, hitting percent and digs and garnered All-Central Region and Second Team All-American honors.
This year, CSB won its first MIAC title since 1998, posting a 10-1 record. They won the MIAC Playoffs by defeating Concordia 3-1 and St. Olaf 3-0. They advanced to the NCAA tourney, but were upset by Luther 3-2 in the opening round to finish the season 26-6. Emma received All-MIAC and All-Central Region honors, and led St. Ben’s with 331 kills and 408 digs.
Emma has been named Academic All-MIAC three times, and has been named Academic All-District as a junior and again this fall.
An Accounting major with minors in Mathematics and Management, Emma sports a 3.85 GPA. Unlike most seniors, she is not worried about her post-graduate plans. “I had an internship with Medtronics over the past summer,” she said. “They offered me a job as a Financial Analyst starting after graduation. I accepted and will start in May”
For the past three years, Emma has been a member of the CSB/SJU Accounting club. She has been a volunteer with Big Brother/Big Sister and has been involved with Habitat for Humanity.
She has also been active in the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC), which looks out for the well-being of student-athletes on campus and promotes support of Blazer athletics in the student body. In addition, Emma is one of the managers of the campus rec center. “I help manage the intramurals,” she said. “I do things like make up schedules and line up officials.”
Last spring, Emma spent the semester in South Africa as part of a group from Saint John’s and St. Ben’s. “We were in Port Elizabeth, for a study of South Africa in literature, music, culture and history,” she said. “There were 30 of us. We also volunteered at an elementary school there, where I helped teach math. We also helped track their election. It was a very fun, rewarding time.”
For Emma, St. Ben’s has been a home away from home for four years. “I can do everything I want to do here and accomplish everything I want out of college,” she said. “It has allowed me to become who I am and develop into the person I am today, as well as preparing me for life and the future.”
[The photos are used courtesy of the College of St. Benedict Sports Information Office.]
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.
This feature will be included in the “Profiles of Excellence 2009-2010″ book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s “Mapping the MIAC” columnist Rich Mies.