VIDEO: Webster University volleyball standout Jenny Howard has a softer side


Freshman Jenny Howard  shows her intensity and doesn’t break a smile when she plays the game. She is an outside hitter for the Webster University volleyball team and proves she’s competitive with her recent honors. But she shows a softer side when she’s not competing on the court.

The outside hitter

Howard’s coach Merry Graf said most coaches recruit for the outside hitter position strictly based on height. Howard is only 5-foot-7, but Graf said Howard’s ability to jump makes up for a lack of height.

Graf said Howard is able to get up high, and that her height doesn’t keep her from making blocks at the net. She added that the team had a lot of outstanding freshman this year, but considers Howard one of the best players.

Graf said Howard is a smart hitter. This means Howard doesn’t just hit the ball hard, she hits it to where the defense is not. Graf added that her star player is an all-around complete player who plays a great offensive game, but has a strong defensive game, too.

Webster University freshman outside hitter Jenny Howard focuses during a match against Greenville College. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

Howard was recently named a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Conference first team performer. She was also selected as the SLIAC’s Newcomer of the Year. The coaches who vote on the awards look at all-around stats, like hitting percentage. Howard explained that baseball players want to bat .300, while volleyball players want to hit over .300. She led the conference in hitting percentage all season, which helped her claim the awards.

Graf wasn’t able to vote for Howard, but she was pleased her player claimed the honor.

“I was really proud of her for winning that award,” Graf said.

Howard has a softer side

Howard thinks people see her on the court and assume she is as intense as the game itself. But she wishes people could see how much she cares for animals.

“People kind of look at me and they see me in sports, because I’m intense in sports, and they’re like she’s so mean,” Howard said. “(There’s) something about animals; I’m very compassionate towards them.”

She shows that compassion at an animal shelter that she works at during the summer.

She said the shelter isn’t always the most fun because she has to clean cages. But Howard added that being around the animals is just “awesome.” She gets to walk and play with dogs, which are her favorite animals.

Why Howard loves dogs so much

Howard said she always wanted to own a dog when she was little. She used to beg her mother for a dog for Christmas. Howard finally got a black lab named Misty when she was 4 years old. But Misty died in October 2011.

Howard said Misty was the love of her life. She remembers a time with her that struck home.

Jenny Howard with her dog, Misty. Photo courtesy of Jenny Howard.

Howard said she and her mother were very close with Howard’s grandmother before she died. A week after her death, Howard and her mother were looking through pictures together and began to cry. Misty was old and couldn’t get around well, but she was able to hop onto the couch and put her head in Howard’s lap. Howard hugged Misty and continued to cry.

Howard said people don’t think animals understand what’s going on, but she believes her dog knew she was in pain at that moment.

“She was there for me,” Howard said.

Howard’s mother didn’t want anymore pets after Misty died.

Howard decided to attend Webster and major in biology. She wants to continue her education at the University of Missouri and become a licensed veterinarian. But for now, she’s impressing people on the volleyball court.

A volleyball family

Howard started playing volleyball when she was in the third grade, and her passion for the sport came from her parents.

Her mother played volleyball in high school. She met Howard’s father in an intramural league after they were both out of college. Howard’s mother also wanted to be a volleyball coach, so she encouraged both of her children to play.

Howard’s best friend and twin brother, Matt Howard, also plays volleyball. He attends Truman State University and plays for a club volleyball team.  Matt Howard started playing volleyball before his sister did. Jenny Howard said competing with him also increased her interest in volleyball.

Matt Howard said it’s cool that he shares something in common with his sister, aside from being twins. He feels that volleyball allows them to bond on an emotional level. Matt Howard said he and his sister have twin telepathy. They know what each other is feeling, on and off the court.

He admitted even he wouldn’t want to mess with his twin on the court. She’s intense and competitive when she plays, but he’s no stranger to her compassion outside of the sport.

Matt Howard said his sister gets excited if she sees someone walking a dog or if she sees one on TV. He knows she loves animals more than anything.

“She would literally do anything to save an animal,” he said. “It’s so admirable.”

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