Despite the setbacks of her first collegiate volleyball season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a disappointing junior year season, senior setter Jo Armstrong stays upbeat when reflecting on her career and planning her future after graduation.
During the Wisconsin native’s freshman season, instead of bonding on the court with her fellow Quakers, she spent the fall alone, focused on staying in shape in the gym due to the pandemic. Thankfully, the next fall, Penn volleyball returned to the court.
But instead of looking back with just disappointment, the senior recalls those first years with appreciation as well. She enjoyed how her first year was about getting adjusted to being a college student, and then her second year of using those lessons learned to succeed as a student and an athlete.
“[Sophomore year] was a really fun year, getting the hang of how to be a student-athlete," Armstrong said. "You're often burning the candle on both ends. You're waking up early. You're staying up late to do something. It’s definitely a challenge, but I really enjoyed getting to learn how to push through.”
Penn volleyball faced a lot of challenges last season, ending with a disappointing 2-22 overall record, but Armstrong notes how even with not the greatest season, the team grew a lot in the gym and mentally.
“We didn't have the greatest season last year, but there were a lot of good things that we got to work through in the gym," Armstrong said. "Coming into this year, we all have this mentality that we don't want to have that record again. We try to do everything in the gym every day to better ourselves.”
Armstrong is consistently looking at the positives with the season ramping up and her team heavily relying on her as it continues weaving through its Ivy League schedule. During a recent game against NJIT and in two games against Princeton, Armstrong had 47, 39, and 44 assists, respectively.
“My strengths as a volleyball player is my ability to connect point hitters and really get them hyped up,” Armstrong said. “I like to talk to them if something's not going correctly because ultimately, my larger strength is the way that I can run the offense. I try to get everyone involved.”
Although Armstrong prides herself on giving it her all at every game and practice, she also emphasizes giving herself grace and appreciating the other aspects of life.
“I've also found a lot of friends outside of volleyball that have been super valuable to me throughout my career, and it just always helps me kind of stay focused on my entire life and not just volleyball because it can become a lot. I like to allow myself grace.” Armstrong said.
Looking toward the future and her final games as a Quaker, Armstrong continues to highlight how she is excited to explore hobbies and activities outside of volleyball post graduation.
“As the end of my career approaches, I think that's going to be the final point of my volleyball career," she said. "I don't have any post-grad plans yet, but I’m looking forward to finding that and exploring new aspects of my life outside of sports.”