Cabarrus

Former Viking leading Blue Hen volleyball

Despite being a longtime club volleyball player, a four-year all-conference selection at Central Cabarrus and a ME-CA 7 player of the year, Jess Chason is the first to admit that when it came to being recruited, the bigger schools in North Carolina left her alone.

In fact, Division I schools for several states passed on her. The University of Delaware was the only big school that came knocking.

As she looks back on her four-year collegiate career with the Blue Hens, Chason's reflections will include a couple visits to the NCAA tournament and an all-conference season. She will have no regrets.

This weekend, Delaware will compete in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. As the regular-season champions, the Blue Hens will be seeded first and attempt to clinch their third NCAA tournament appearance in Chason's four seasons.

Central Cabarrus enjoyed a fine run during Chason's career, including an appearance in the third round of the state playoffs her senior year. Beginning club level play as a middle schooler, Chason played her final two seasons with the Piedmont Volleyball Club in Greensboro.

Daughter of Don and Patti Chason, Hickory Ridge High's volleyball coach, Jess Chason says Delaware first learned about her through Piedmont Volleyball assistant coach Trevor Hewitt, a 2001 Delaware graduate. The Blue Hens continued to recruit Chason through her club's tournaments.

"It was definitely stressful," said Chason. "I had to go visit. But it was perfect for me. I feel I'm really lucky. It was one of my only options but for me it worked out."

Delaware was coming off a winning season and a CAA tournament semifinal appearance when Chason arrived in 2007. With a core group of experienced seniors, there were high expectations for the Blue Hens that season.

Chason, a setter, played behind one of those seniors, but still made appearances in the final 25 matches. Delaware finished 31-5 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

A strong spring season helped Chason win a starting role for her sophomore year. A highlight was being named Most Outstanding Player at the CAA tournament as the Blue Hens reached the NCAA tourney for the second straight year.

Looking for a three-peat last season, Delaware tied for the regular season championship but lost in the first round of the conference tournament. It failed to earn an NCAA tournament at-large berth.

Chason had a breakout season, being named the CAA's Setter of the Year. For the second straight year, CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine nominated her for their All-Academic team.

"(Setter of the Year is) awesome but it all depends on how good your team is," said Chason. "My team gets hits, meaning I get the assists, which is what the award is based on. It's just completely true in a team sport."

As one of four three-year letter-winning seniors, Chason says this year's team reminds her of her freshman season when the Blue Hens' senior group led them to one of the program's best seasons. Delaware recently clinched the CAA regular season title and Chason was a key player in the run.

Chason leads the league in assists per set (10.25 a game) and was named the CAA's co-offensive player of the week on Nov. 1.

After two previous nominations, Chason was selected for the CoSIDA/ESPN District 2 All-Academic second team. A business major, Chason has a 3.48 GPA.

"I didn't realize at the time but (Delaware) is a very elite academic school," said Chason. "Everyone up here knows about it. Good things are happening here. It's one of the elite schools for research and has a well-respected business school."

Chason is on track to graduate with honors in the spring.

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