For senior outside hitter Jannelle Curtiss, volleyball has provided the sense of solidarity she had grown accustomed to throughout her life.
Curtiss played as team captain of her high school volleyball team in the Bahamas and even played for the national volleyball team at the age of 14.
“I was the youngest. I traveled with them and it was like all these older people. I was like the little baby so they always took care of me.” Curtiss said.
Curtiss has experienced a similar level of care here from her teammates at Charlotte. When she experienced a great deal of homesickness her freshman year, her team made sure to help her feel more at home.
Curtiss, in her four years at UNC Charlotte, has taken on an active role both defensively and offensively, having played 111 sets, ranking third in team blocks, fourth in kills and third in points. But finding the balance between volleyball and other aspects of life was not always easy.
“My freshman year, I definitely struggled trying to find time for volleyball [and] trying to find time to be with friends outside of volleyball. Then you have school work too,” Curtiss said.
Curtiss gathers much support and insight from her support system though.
“I feel like I’m really an individual whose really grown up from a community. It’s always been not just [my mother] raising me,” Curtiss said.
Since the passing of her father 11 years ago, Curtiss has confided in a number of parent-like mentors.
“My aunt is like my second mom. I have a coach, he started volleyball with me; if anything happens, he’s like a father to me. I have two father figures back home, I can always call for anything,” Curtiss said. “It’s just like I’ve been raised by a whole community so I feel like I have so much people to look up to, and so many people to lean on.”
Despite leaving her family and many friends in the Bahamas, Curtiss does not feel alone here at UNC Charlotte.
“I don’t think I’m here by myself ’cause I have my team. Even though for the past four years, it’s been like different people, we’re together everyday. I don’t really feel alone.” said Curtiss.
Curtiss has witnessed increased support for the 49er volleyball program since her freshman debut in 2015. The team, in their Dig Pink Match against FIU, saw a season high in attendance of 1,600 fans, where in earlier games, the program averaged 730 fans at home.
“It’s been really good seeing that change happen from time as a freshman. It’s good to see that they’re starting to support us.” said Curtiss.
Much of the excitement in recent volleyball games has been attributed to the presence of other campus programs.
“We love it when football comes, and the band. It just brings so much energy and so much support. It kinda forces you to play to the best of your ability,” said Curtiss. “I really hope when I leave they continue to do it more often.”
In light of her experiences as a student and volleyball player at UNC, Curtiss is seemingly pleased with her decision to attend UNC Charlotte
“I love Charlotte. I’m really happy that I decided to come here. The school…it’s just so good. The program is good. The teachers are really good. The people I’ve met here, I’ll never replace that.” Curtiss said.
Curtiss plans to continue her studies in exercise science post-graduation.
“I might go to grad school, and if I don’t go to grad school, I’ll go to med school.” Curtiss said.
Curtiss is considering UNC Charlotte graduate programs as well as medicinal studies at the University of West Indies in her hometown.