CHATHAM, NJ — One of six advanced placement courses Brenda Jaroker is taking this year at Chatham High is calculus. And she feels her ability to find the correct answer is connected to how she plays the game of volleyball.
“People don’t realize that there is a lot of problem-solving and decision-making that goes into the position I play,” Chatham’s senior setter said. “There is a lot of thinking on your feet and it’s definitely helped with my confidence in math. You go into a problem, work through things and try different solutions. I really think that’s what I do on the court.”
Jaroker has calculated the right answer during her play on the volleyball court countless times and she has documented her work for all to see. The proof is that she has used her setting skills to accumulate more than 1,000 career assists during her three-year tenure.
Brenda Jaroker is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
“I’ve always wanted to be a setter,” the 5-5 Jaroker said. “I like the idea of thinking of myself as the quarterback, directing things. That’s kind of how I am. I like to see my plans come to fruition. That’s helped me a lot with school and volleyball. That’s just something I always had in me and I think that really helps.”
It sure has helped the Chatham volleyball team this season. The Cougars compiled a 13-4 mark and reached the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state final, bowing to Mendham.
“She doesn’t talk much but she says the right things to the right people,” Chatham coach Anna Amster said. “You don’t need to be a hoo-rah cheerleader to lead. I think she does let loose and make people laugh and brings a joyful atmosphere to the team.”
In the state semifinals, Chatham lost the first set against Summit and came back to win the next two, with the clinching point of the second set being a Lauren Burke kill for Jaroker’s 1,000th assist. She ended with 24 assists, 15 digs and three service aces in the 2-1 win.
“Not a lot of people give credit to the setters,” Burke, Chatham’s senior outside, said. “It’s always like ‘what a great hit’ but it’s because of the set. That’s all her.”
Burke should know. She and Jaroker have been teammates for three varsity seasons and practically all of Burke’s 360-plus kills have come off the sets by Jaroker.
“Everyone loves playing with her,” Burke said. “She pushes for everybody. She wants everyone to get better and she wants to make her sets better for everyone else. We all have confidence that she’ll make the right play.”
Jaroker was also a trusted server for Chatham and her ability to place the ball enabled Amster to signal where she wanted her co-captain to serve it.
The self-effacing Jaroker did have to admit that she was really proud of the 2021 season and the milestone week she experienced.
“First I got the 1,000 assists and then we got so far in the states,” she said. “I’m just so proud of the team. We grew so much. It was really awesome to see us take a little lesson from each game and use that to make us better as the season went along. We have no D-1 girls or anyone who is 6-5, which shows us what a team we were with everyone contributed something.”
The virus pandemic delayed the start of the volleyball season, which is usually a fall sport, and the 17-year-old Jaroker made sure she was ready when the ball went up in the air.
“Quarantine has been kind of tough,” she said. “Before the season, I had some private lessons with Jason Davila, my coach at Sideout Sports in Fairfield.”
Jaroker stayed in shape by jumping rope regularly, hitting the ball against a wall in her basement and strengthening her fingers with a heavy setter’s ball. She added to her foot speed by playing for the CHS tennis team in the fall.
Volleyball and rope jumping served as stress relievers for the six AP courses she is taking at CHS: Government and Politics, Statistics, English, Physics, Spanish and Calculus. Her four-year GPA stands at 4.6 as she readies to enroll at Williams College in Massachusetts.
“I jump rope a lot and I can’t recommend it more to anyone who wants to play volleyball or any sport,” Jaroker said. “It makes you so quick on your feet.”
It took a lot of time-management skill for Jaroker to balance hanging with friends, volleyball and six AP courses.
Ironically, the one thing Jaroker wasn’t able to “set” with her planning was a place to play college volleyball. Her concentration on studies and the 2021 season distracted her from reaching out to college coaches in time to secure a setter’s spot.
“I did want to play in college,” she said. “I neglected reaching out to coaches to see if they needed a setter. It just didn’t work out. I love math and that’s going to be my major.”
Editor’s note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community. For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions. Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals. To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com.