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In the midst of her senior season, Jalyn Vertin can look back and laugh.

Her freshman year seems a long time ago, from the matches to her skill level as a player.

“I laugh now because I think of all the things I could have done differently (as a player),” Vertin said before a recent practice. “ ‘Why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I do this?’ Now, I definitely feel more comfortable, more settled.”

A 5-foot-10 middle hitter, Vertin came to Joliet West after the sports programs at West and Joliet Central split back to two schools. A freshman with just one year of volleyball experience under her belt, she found herself thrown into the fire.

Even though Vertin was very much still learning the game, West coach Al Mart saw plenty of potential in his the freshman, immediately bumping her up to varsity.

“Jalyn has done a good job of developing with her skills each year,” Mart said. “She is a quality front-row player for us, a hard-worker who is tough and can take constructive criticism.”

In her three-plus years on varsity, Vertin has run the gauntlet. In her freshman year, the program’s first since the split, the Tigers went a disheartening 3-27.

Joliet West went 11-23-1 in 2011 and 13-22 in ’12. She was named all-SouthWest Suburban Blue as a junior. This season, Vertin has been a key cog as West has gone 11-13. With two weeks to go in the regular season, the Tigers are poised for their best season-finish yet.

Vertin, a team captain, has 66 kills and 48 blocks through the Tigers’ 24 matches.

“Being voted a captain, it made me realize the girls look up to me and respect what I do,” Vertin said. “It’s a huge responsibility for me.”

The season has been trying at times dealing with the regular ups and downs, as well as the team’s search for a consistent setter. Vertin said the team is starting to find that rhythm offensively as the season hits the home stretch.

Helping to create the program’s legacy isn’t lost on Vertin.

“We’re trying to find that chemistry offensively, and things have gotten way better in terms of chemistry,” Vertin said. “It’s big for me and Kailey Foster, since we came in as freshmen together. We want to help make the standard high for the program.”

Mart has seen quite the transformation in Vertin.

“Jalyn has been through some tough times and adversity,” Mart said. “Lots of kids would have had a difficult time handling, but she’s progressed each year. She has done a nice job on and off the court, being a team captain, both with her work ethic and verbally.”

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