Itâ€™s a cloudy October day over CSUâ€™s volleyball pit, and Jacque Davisson is as pumped as ever. Exiting the locker room, last in the line of her teammates, she slaps the doorway, marked with the Ramsâ€™ logo, and begins to cheer as the Rams prepare to take on Denver.
â€œI like being the last one out and getting them going,â€ Davisson said.
But her confidence and assumed leadership as she enters a game is underscored by a reputation for being unpredictable.
Davissonâ€™s mother, Lisa Davisson, says she was â€œout of controlâ€ in her early volleyball years. She wasnâ€™t as knowledgeable about the game, but had a true passion, a true love for the sport.
CSU volleyball coach Tom Hilbert said Davisson had yet to harness her energy when she started with the Rams in 2007, but has since become more composed, more of an effective leader.
The senior outside hitterâ€™s constant enthusiasm is magnetic on and off the court.
She throws her hands in the air in triumph before anyone can realize the Rams have scored. Whether cheering for a point or cheering that she didnâ€™t burn the garlic on the stove, Davisson radiates energy.
â€œShe burns hot, just has a fast heartbeat,â€ Hilbert said after a Nov. 2 practice, two days before the Ramsâ€™ defeat of UNLV at Moby Arena.
And though Davisson is not the best player on the squad, Hilbert said, her energy and compassion has made her a clear leader of one of CSUâ€™s winningest Division I sports teams.
The birth of an athlete
Volleyball runs in the blood of the Davisson family.
After a friend introduced Davissonâ€™s father, Danny Davisson, to the sport, each of the Davisson children â€“â€“ Daniel,
Noah and Jacque â€“â€“ touched their first volleyball by age 4 or 5.
Born Jacqueline Renee on Dec. 17, 1988 in Fullerton, Calif., Davisson moved to Placentia, Calif. at age 4. A natural athlete from an early age, she played volleyball for her church, A Gathering of Christians.
â€œI mean, she stood out as a kid in middle school among the other students. She could jump high, had coordination and speed â€¦ she was just an incredible athlete from the beginning,â€ Lisa Davisson said.
In middle school, though, volleyball was something Jacque did only in the fall to stay in shape to play basketball. But after starting at Valencia High School her freshman year, playing both varsity basketball and volleyball, things began to change.
â€œI just kind of fell in the love with the game after my freshman year,â€ Davisson said.
By sophomore year, she joined a traveling club volleyball team.
â€œShe trained six weeks in the program and went hard and went for it. Her club coach began to take notice â€¦ and people loved her energy,â€ Lisa Davisson said.
It didnâ€™t take long for colleges to take notice of her talent, and midway through her sophomore year, colleges began recruiting, and recruiting hard.
â€œI had a couple folders of stuff,â€ Jacque Davisson said, countered by her mother, who said at least 50 colleges expressed interest.
Becoming a Ram
It was on Feb. 27, 2006 that Hilbert first took notice of Davisson.
She was playing with Orange Countyâ€™s Impact Volleyball Club in a tournament at the American Sports Center in Anaheim, Calif.
On Davissonâ€™s unofficial visit to CSU in March 2006, Hilbert told Lisa Davisson about a conversation he had with UNLVâ€™s volleyball coach at that tournament.
â€œI remember Allison (Keeley), the UNLV coach, told Tom: â€˜Thatâ€™s my girl, but someone is going to take her from me,â€™â€ Lisa Davisson said. That afternoon Hilbert went and watched Jacque play, Lisa said, offering her a full-ride scholarship the next day.
Again, Hilbert said Davisson was easy to notice because of her energy.
â€œYou can see her athletic ability, and youâ€™re just drawn to her. I went and watched her and was just captivated,â€ he said.
So on March 3, 2006 Lisa and Jacque took to the road and air to visit prospective schools. CSU, Washington State, UC Davis, New Mexico and UNLV waited for her arrival and the opportunity to persuade her to play.
Hilbert laughed, remembering Davissonâ€™s unofficial visit.
â€œIt was really funny. She is a total jock. She walks in, in her high school letter jacket with all these metals and crap on it, and carried a volleyball,â€ he said. â€œShe was easy to notice. You knew she was going to be a special kid.â€
In the end, CSU was the right fit. With the Rams, Davisson could play under Hilbert and pursue a career in animal sciences â€“â€“Â her goal at the time.
â€œA lot of coaches wouldnâ€™t have given me the chance that Tom has given me,â€ she said.
Almost four years later â€¦
Since her birth 7,619 days ago, Davisson has given life to the Rams volleyball team as it chases after the best record in the Mountain West Conference. And a conference title would not only be a success for the team, but for CSU athletics as a whole.
The team is ranked No. 13 in the nation, boasting an impressive 23-3 record and 12-1 in the MWC.
In the 91 sets the Rams have played this season, Davisson has played in 90.
On the court, sheâ€™s easy to pick out.
With every good play, her hands thrust in the air and her deep, passionate voice goes out across the court like a battle cry. When the team falls behind, sheâ€™s the first to clap and to bring her teammates together.
â€œThis is a kid with a great deal of personal intensity and a motor,â€ Hilbert said.
One of her roommates and teammate, Izzy Gualia, said no matter the situation, Davisson is fully engaged and focused.
This idea holds true whether on the court or sitting on the couch, eating chicken soup and watching â€œJersey Shore.â€
â€œI just love players like that. You canâ€™t teach what she has. You can teach skills, but you canâ€™t teach heart,â€ said Gualia, a sophomore defensive specialist.
Over the years, Hilbert and Gualia said Davisson has developed into one of the leaders of this team.
â€œSheâ€™s not a leader, like telling you what to do. She encourages you to get better,â€ Gualia said.
In the past three years, Davisson, too, has grown academically.
The animal sciences major-turned sports medicine major hopes one day to become a firefighter and has dreams of reaching the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. This means first qualifying for a spot on the Federation of International Volleyball team
â€œThat would be the ultimate goal,â€ Davisson said.
But before any of that happens, Davisson and her team are focused on winning the MWC, which guarantees a bid in Decemberâ€™s NCAA Tournament.
â€œOne of my big things is that I just want to help people. So whatever I do, if I could help someone, thatâ€™s ultimately what I want to do,â€ she said.
Chief Photographer Nick Lyon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.