It’s hard to miss Hokies volleyball player Jennifer Wiker when she walks into a room.
At six-foot-three with lots of blonde hair and big smiles, the senior outside hitter has developed into one of Tech’s best players and team leaders.
Currently second on the team in kills, Wiker has been a force on a consistent Hokies attack over her four years in Blacksburg. Her journey into her final season, however, has been full of twists and turns.
Wiker started playing volleyball in seventh grade, as a hitting partner for her older sister. But the only reason she resorted to that in the first place is because of a little bump in the road.
“I started playing because I didn’t make the cheerleading team,” Wiker said. “But my sister had been playing and needed someone to practice with in the driveway, so that got me into it.”
Missing the cheerleading team seems like a pretty casual start into the sport for a girl who would subsequently dominate matches.
By the end of her senior year, Wiker had not only been named Volleyball Player of the Year by Charlotte Weekly, but also set North Carolina high school records for kills in a game (42) and kills in a season (457).
After those accolades and accomplishments, Wiker decided to come to Blacksburg. Despite the accolades she received in high school, the Hokie coaching staff decided that it was best for her to redshirt her freshman season.
“At the time (redshirting) was really hard for me,” Wiker said. “Having extra practices when the team had the day off and sitting on the sideline for an entire season was tough. But looking back it helped me so much that it was definitely the right decision.”
Wiker came into the next season with 10 added pounds of muscle and a hunger to succeed. Primarily coming off the bench, she ended up with 205 kills in her first season, but showed promise in big competitions, ending up with 17 kills against Miami and 14 against a ranked Florida State team.
During that season, she not only came into her own on the court, but also started her own pregame ritual before even stepping on to the Cassell Coliseum court.
During Tech’s “Dig Pink” games, each team member is given a pink armband to help raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most players give the armbands back at the end of the month, but not Wiker, whose armband meant a little more to her than the rest of the players out there.
At the age of seven, Wiker lost her mother to breast cancer. As devastating as it was for her and the entire Wiker family, Jennifer decided to wear the armband every game for the rest of her career in honor of her mom.
“I realized that I can honor my mom every time I play, not just in those special games,” Wiker said. “ Every time I put it on, I think about how hard my mom fought to be there for me and my family. It makes me realize that nothing can be as bad as what she went through and no matter what the outcome of the game, keep a positive attitude like she always did.”
With that attitude over her next two seasons, Wiker tallied 579 kills on top of a number of personal and team-wide accomplishments. In 2010, the Hokies earned their first ever NCAA Tournament selection, making it to the second round before falling to eventual champion Penn State. Wiker stood out in many games that season, including a 21 kill effort against Virginia.
Wiker had her best statistical season the next year, racking up 320 kills, including a 29-kill performance in a loss against Wake Forest, something only two Hokie players have ever done. Despite the individual accomplishments, the Hokies missed the tournament, giving Wiker and her teammates extra motivation coming into 2012.
“That experience of going to the tournament and playing against such an amazing team was great,” Wiker said. “But this is my senior season, and I desperately want to go back, in fact not making it would be heartbreaking.”
The tournament would be a sweet ending to an already great year. Over the summer, Wiker was one of 48 players (out of 200) who tried out for and made the United States Volleyball A2 tournament.