Joy Chen played on a very talented Huron volleyball team this past season and the humble senior had no problem “flying under the radar,” according to her coach, Toney Cummer. But anyone and everyone who understands the game of volleyball understands just how good Chen was at her favorite sport.
And that included the folks down in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Chen, a team captain this past season for the River Rats, is heading to Purdue to join the Boilermakers volleyball team next season. Playing Division 1, and at a Big Ten school no less, is a big deal, but not surprising considering Chen’s incredible talents.
“Without her we would not have had half of the success over the last three years,” said Cummer, whose Huron teams are always among the best in the area. “She has worked harder than any player I have ever coached. She just started setting after her sophomore year and has worked her way to not only a D1 scholarship at that position but at one of the best programs in the Big Ten for a legendary coach Dave Shondell.
“Most setters who are recruited at that level start very young. The other two freshman they have coming in this year are both top 50 recruits in the country.”
Chen is much more than an outstanding athlete. In fact, she plays at an even higher level in the classroom where she scored an amazing 35 on her ACT – 36 is a perfect score. Chen, who also is a nationally ranked chess player, said her recruiting process “was a strange one.”
“I was conflicted between high academics and strong athletics, as many options couldn’t offer both,” she said. “It definitely got more stressful as senior year progressed and time seemed to be running out. However, I am glad that I waited for my perfect fit rather than settle because I couldn’t be happier with my decision now.”
She says Purdue offered that perfect combination of “rigorous academics and competitive athletics” she was looking for in her next challenge.
“The engineering and volleyball programs are among the best in the country,” she says. “Beyond those factors, the sense of family within the volleyball program was immediately apparent during my visit. The coaching staff is so invested in the players as people, learners and players.”
Chen will be in First Year Engineering at Purdue but isn’t sure what engineering focus she will pursue. She shouldn’t have any trouble learning, understanding and excelling in whatever field she chooses.
A 35 on the ACT? How did she pull that off?
“I think the most helpful preparation is taking practice tests,” she said. “That way you can study the mistakes you made and watch out for them on the real exam. Standardized testing is almost like a game; a lot of it depends on strategy rather than knowledge.”
Speaking of games, Chen expects to also excel on the volleyball court. Eventually, that is.
“The coaching staff is known for developing players so I’m really excited to learn from them,” she said. “I really want to improve on all aspects of my game and maybe even get on the court.”
Chen, the daughter of Lindsey and Ben Chen, was a key player on the court for Huron this past season. She said this year’s team was “special.”
“Toney would always say we were the weirdest team he has ever coached,” she said. “Aside from everyone’s desire to win on the court, there was an incredible bond off of it as well. I’ll never forget how many times we all collapsed from laughing at the dumbest things. Even though we were slightly unbalanced, with 11 seniors and four sophomores, we were so cohesive and it truly felt like family.”
Chen believes Huron volleyball is so successful every year because the culture sets up players for success from the very beginning.
“There is a huge emphasis on team, respect, and hard work, which caters well to success,” she said. “Every year, Huron has a few stud players. However, I think a lot of the program’s success comes from the players who aren’t in the limelight. They are relentlessly competitive during practice and games.”
Chen, who also has been the president of the chess club for the past two years, is a member of the National Honor Society and Student Executive Board. While she’s looking forward to the next chapter, she is going to miss Huron High School.
“I’ll definitely miss Huron volleyball the most,” she said. “All the girls and the coaches are like family. High school volleyball season was always the most fun time of year. The friends and memories made during the seasons will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Chen also played two years of club volleyball with Premier 18 Onitsuka. Her experience in club “completely changed me as a player.”
“Almost all my improvement in the last year or so has come from the work I put in at Premier Volleyball Academy,” she said. “Coach Schramm and the rest of the Premier staff trained me to play the setter position within the span of seven months. I never thought I could play at the Big Ten level, but their belief in me (along with thousands of hours in the gym) has given me the opportunity.”
And while she might fly under the radar, you can be sure she will make the most of her opportunity.