Jade Putz is small in stature, but the 5-1 sophomore is making a big impact on the Viterbo College volleyball scene.
Putz, a 2016 West Delaware graduate, completed her second season with Viterbo at the NAIA National Tournament in Sioux City in December, where the V-Hawks knocked off top-seed Grand View in the quarterfinal round to move to the final four for the second year in a row.
Viterbo, based in LaCrosse, Wis., went on to lose a 3-1 semifinal decision to Columbia College, ending the season 33-8 after winning its fourth straight North Star Athletic Association championship.
“It was an amazing ride filled with hard work,” said Putz. “While I had individual goals to improve my skills, my teammates helped me get there and together we made our national tournament journey and final four appearance something to remember.”
Coach Ryan DeLong, 434-128 in 14 years at Viterbo, including five consecutive NAIA National Tournament appearances, said Putz has been a great addition to his program.
“Jade has been a real spark plug to our team in both practice and in games. She brings a lot of positive energy into our gym which makes us better,” he said. “Culture is very important in our gym, and Jade fits in well with what we are trying to accomplish day in and day out.”
Putz has made a seamless transition to the college game after playing for coach Brett Mather at West Delaware.
“The style of play between West Delaware and Viterbo is relatively similar,” she said. “ Both programs have a great chemistry and family support system.”
“Coach Mather pushed me to be the best I can be. He expected the best from me every day and that was just part of the team culture. I am thankful for that because it helped me become the player I am today,” Putz said. “Coach DeLong expected the same thing of me when I got to Viterbo. Some players have a difficult time adjusting to the intensity of the college game, but I had that in high school, so I was familiar with it.”
Moving from the high school to the collegiate level in any sport is a challenge. Putz knows the West Delaware program prepared her well.
“It was a big jump, but playing for a competitive, high quality high school team with similar coaching styles was really to my advantage,” said Putz. “The main difference is the pace of the game, the travel time, and balancing the school work load.”
DeLong said Putz has not only improved her own skills — she has played a key role in the improvement of her teammates.
“Jade’s role this year has been two fold,” he said. “In practice her focus was pushing everyone around her — especially the passers on the other side. In games, she was our serving specialist. It wasn’t an easy role as she was expected to come in and serve cold, but she handled it well and was a key part of our success.”
“She was obviously well-coached before she got to Viterbo, as her fundamentals are excellent and she has a very high volleyball IQ.”
Handling it well might be an understatement, as Putz, who appeared in 38 games and 125 sets in 2018, converted 93 percent of her serves with 28 aces on the season.
Putz, a sports science major who is pursuing minors in biology and psychology, encourages young players to be focused both in the gym and the classroom.
“Don’t shy away from sports because of academics,” she said. “You can do anything you want to as long as you are willing to work. Success does not just happen — you make it happen.”
DeLong agrees that Putz is a prime example of that.
“Jade is a joy to have in practice every day. She works hard, pushes herself every day, and is always getting better,” he said.