Jori Hajek wanted some freedom as she began her college journey.
But she still sought the comfort of being close to home.
That's why Iowa Central was the perfect choice for the Humboldt High School graduate, as her decision also allowed her to play both volleyball and softball.
"Iowa Central was a place where I could still be close to home, yet, get away to learn how to live on my 'own,'" Hajek said. "Needless to say, my mom gets a call every day and I still have her do my laundry.
"To me, Iowa Central was a place that wasn't too huge where I wouldn't know how to get around, but still not crazy small."
Hajek has become a key member of the rotation for the top-ranked Iowa Central volleyball team.
"I really didn't expect to be put in the starting lineup," she said. "My goal was to play as much as possible, but I was happy to be part of such an amazing team and program. As practices went on, my drive and desire to play grew as I found how special this team was.
"Coming off an incredible season last year, this program was not settled and remains hungry to get a ring. The drive that these girls have is inspiring and really has rubbed off on me. The first practices for me were a way to show the team that I could carry my own and work just as hard as anyone else. Obviously, having a size disadvantage, I wanted to show not only the coaches but the players that I could keep up and excel in this environment."
Hajek has always been active, competing in several sports for the Wildcats and other activities. She helped the volleyball and softball programs reach state, while also running at the state track meet.
That hectic schedule helped her prepare for much of the same at Iowa Central.
"At times it can be crazy busy, but I have done a way better job at using my time to go to the library and getting things done," Hajek said. "Long bus rides are another great thing and place for me to get my school work done, and practices get done fairly early to where I still have time and days to spend with my friends and to do things I enjoy."
Both volleyball head coach Sara Horn and softball head coach Bo Tjebben were "super understanding," which Hajek added, "makes this whole thing possible for me."
-By Dana Becker