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As a 6-foot-3 senior in high school, Claire Jeter had the natural genes of a Division I volleyball player.
However, before volleyball, Jeter’s life was dedicated to softball.
Her love for the sport began at just four-years-old and over the years, Jeter developed an indescribable skill for the sport. By the time she reached ninth grade, she had already begun to receive verbal offers from a few colleges.
Being both a pitcher and a first baseman, the skilled player initially aimed to juggle softball and volleyball alongside her college schedule. However, she quickly realized that it would be almost impossible given the high demands of the level of play that she was called upon to perform.
Her mother played both volleyball and softball at San Jacinto Junior College. Managing both sports was an easier task at a smaller community college in Houston, but accomplishing the same at the Division I level is quite challenging.
So, after her freshman year in high school, Jeter gave softball up for good to focus on volleyball.
As a four-year varsity starter for the Ridge Point Panther volleyball team in Missouri City, Texas, Jeter maintains confidence in her decision to stick with volleyball, but sometimes misses stepping foot onto the diamond.
“It was awesome, I loved it,” Jeter said. “I’m really glad I picked volleyball but if I could have played both I definitely would.”
There is no doubt she would have found immense success through softball, but it certainly appears that choosing volleyball has worked out in her favor.
In AP style:
After a brief stint at Texas A&M in her home state, the middle blocker has established herself in Arizona with the Sun Devils. She currently is helping lead her team to a 15-1 start to the season, marking their first 15+ win season since 2019 when they finished 17-14.
Moving parts and a shot in the dark
At Ridge Point High School, Jeter led her team to an undefeated season her senior year and earned several accolades including being an All-American, named to the Under Armour All-Region team and was the MVP of the 6A District her junior season.
These are just a handful of the honors and achievements that Jeter amassed during her high school years. To put it plainly, she was good.
As she wrapped up her final years for the Panthers, Jeter made several recruiting visits to some big-name colleges including Baylor, Ole Miss, Lipscomb, and Texas A&M.
She had harbored the dream of attending Texas A&M in College Station since the age of five, ultimately making her decision between colleges pretty easy.
The fact that the university was just an hour and a half away from where she grew up in Missouri City did not hurt either.
“There were a lot of decisions,” Jeter said. “I mean, Texas A&M was my dream school – I loved being close to home and it was the only school I was going to stay in Texas for.”
During her freshman season with the Aggies, she played in 12 games and started in six while recording some impressive stats in the process. She had a career high of eight kills against Alabama and finished her inaugural season with five solo blocks.
The Aggies finished 9-9 in Jeter’s first year with the team and ended the season on a five game losing streak.
Before Texas A&M, her impressive four years with Ridge Point would have projected her to see more time on the court her freshman season than she did. With a rather frustrating start for the young star, she began to rethink where she belonged.
After pining over attending Texas A&M for nearly 13 years, Jeter had to come to terms with the fact that the Aggies just were not the right fit for her.
“I just didn’t really agree with some of the coaching decisions and I did not think it was the team for me,” Jeter said. “So I decided to make my way.”
Yet another tough decision to make for the Jeter, but again, one that she could not be any more happier with.
Most freshman either want to be as far away as possible from their hometown or they want to be within an easy driving distance from it. Now that Jeter had experienced the close to home life for one year in the small town of College Station, she was ready to venture away from Texas.
“Once I decided to leave I wanted to kind of explore,” Jeter said. “I feel like this is the time to do it, when you’re in college. This is the time to explore a different lifestyle, a different place – (because) I’m always gonna want to live in Texas, it’s my home.”
So, Jeter left on a whim.
Unfortunately, Jeter’s freshman year of college was in 202o – a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. When she made her decision to transfer in 2021, it was still hard to travel and tour other college campuses due to COVID restrictions.
Basing her relocation purely on videos of the team, campus and city, Jeter decided to make her way to Arizona. A place that she had never stepped foot in before.
“(It is) a lot different than college station where there’s like two things to do within a span of an hour and a half,” Jeter said. “So I think there’s just a lot to offer here. I really liked the team (and) I’m very appreciative that I got to play with this team.”
A budding career 1,171 miles from home
Much like her high school career, her first year with the Sun Devils brought in many accolades for the sophomore in a brand new, advanced setting.
To top it off, Jeter scored her debut point for the Sun Devils against Texas A&M… Corpus Christi. A school that is a part of the Texas A&M system.
So, technically Texas A&M.
Jeter played in every single match during her sophomore season before finding herself in a starting position her junior year.
Now, the senior leader for the team is one of the longest tenured players recording over 40 solo blocks, 156 digs, 502 kills and 707 points over the span of 282 sets.
On top of her consistently stellar performance, the senior’s hard work is finally paying off for the Sun Devil program who have finished its seasons 14-17 and 13-19 since her arrival in 2021. With 16 games still left to go, ASU has already demolished their previous two season finishes.
“It’s awesome,”Jeter said of the season. “I mean, we lost some girls but we picked up some hell of a girls. We couldn’t have picked up better ones really. We picked up hard workers (and) we picked up people that are gonna pay in and buy into our beliefs.”
One thing that is especially different this year about Jeter is the giant knee brace that she sports on her left knee.
With the size of the brace and the area that it covers, it appears to be in response to an ACL repair or even a complete blow out of the knee.
“Last season, I just started to have a little issue,” Jeter said. “My knee was starting to bother me a lot and I think that just comes with getting older and playing volleyball.”
She was being modest.
It tethers down to a sprained MCL, a few tears in the patellar tendon, divoting in the meniscus and some damaged cartilage.
As a middle blocker, Jeter puts an intense amount of stress on her knees through jumping and landing during every single play. Add on the fact that she has been conducting this movement for nearly ten years and it is bound to bring some unprecedented side effects.
“(My knee) is getting better (and) treatment is helping,” Jeter said. “The knee brace is mainly just to make sure that I can actually push off of my leg without causing extreme pain because it’s not really stable. Other than that, it’s pretty good,” she added with a laugh.
FBI behavioral analysis/volleyball coach
In her senior season, it is natural to start thinking about what is next. Of course, she is taking in the success that the Sun Devils are experiencing right now but for most, athletics are not forever.
Although Jeter is in the process of receiving her bachelors in criminology and criminal justice, she actually has decided rather recently that she wants to be a volleyball coach.
“I really want to coach in college and I’ve kind of talked to JJ about getting me a head start somewhere,” Jeter said. “I obviously am going to coach club as well. Hopefully higher levels, maybe sixteens (or) fifteens, kind of when they start getting good.”
Jeter notes that head coach JJ Van Niel pokes fun at her for making yet another career switch. She thinks this is around her fourth.
She wanted to be a behavioral analyst for the FBI at one point and coaching does not require a specific degree, so she decided to stick with what she finds interesting and finish out her criminal justice major.
Plus, if anything goes south, she always has that passion to fall back on.
She said that her love for true-crime is yet another trait that she got from her mom.
“My mom, as many moms do, (raised me) on NCIS and ID channel, Forensic Files, all of that,” Jeter said. “I think I’ve just been really interested in it ever since … and the classes are classes that I actually want to pay attention in and I’m not bored.”
It is rare to hear of a college athlete who plays a Division I sport and also loves the classes that they are taking. For Jeter, she has a lot to look forward to over the next several months.
A booming year for the Sun Devil volleyball program is of course an added bonus.
Nationally ranked underdogs
“I’m so excited, words really can’t describe,” Jeter said. “I think we have a great team, we have a great group of coaches and we have a great group of people and we’re always battling for each other not for ourselves, which is something not a lot of people get to experience.”
With a new head coach at the reins in Van Niel, the team received the much needed change that they were searching for.
“We’re running a completely different system than we ran with our old coach,” Jeter said. “So of course there are going to be some changes and I think with all the time that we got in spring, there was only nine of us, I know that we really transformed and then getting to work with all the new girls and really making sure that they understand what we’re doing was really easy at that point.”
The Sun Devils’ dropped its first match of the season in a 0-3 loss against No. 3 ranked Stanford on Sept. 29 after winning 13 games straight to kick off the 2023 season.
After impressively not having to play any sets to five, the Sun Devils faced its first challenge against Cal on Oct. 1 when they were taken to their first short set of the year where they came out victorious in a 3-2 win.
Ever since Pac-12 play has started, ASU has been challenged more than they were during the first half of the season. Playing against competitive teams in Stanford, Washington and Cal has shown them what they need to work on.
“It’s awesome getting to play how we are right now and we’re having a really good season so far,” Jeter said. “Again, it’s early Pac-12 season, so we have a lot we have to show but I know we’re coming for everyone and I think people are still doubting us a lot so we’re still continuing to make moves and try to show them why they shouldn’t.”
ASU is currently ranked at No. 23 in the nation after a 15-1 start and are still considered to be the underdogs of the NCAA.
A title that the team embraces because it provides them with a chip on their shoulder.
The nationally ranked underdogs.
“It’s time to show them what ASU is really about and I’m really excited and I think we have some really big teams that we have to beat and once we do, hopefully they’ll start to realize why we’re ranked the way we are,” Jeter said. “It’s really proving it to ourselves at this point. Like you said, we haven’t had great seasons in the past, but this one’s definitely ours.”
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