c/o Hannah Docktor

In Play(er) of the Week, we seek to highlight Wesleyan athletes or parts of games that deserve extra attention. Michelle Jorba ’25 is an outside hitter on the Wesleyan volleyball team. She recently won NESCAC Player of the Week for her impressive performances in wins against Middlebury and Hamilton. Jorba had her second and third most kills of the season in the back to back games and led the Cardinals to close out the regular season undefeated in NESCAC play. Jorba sat down with The Argus to talk about her season and the upcoming NESCAC Semifinals.

The Argus: When and why did you first start playing volleyball?

Michelle Jorba: I started playing club in eighth grade. I’m from New York where volleyball’s not very big. So I played for a really bad club. And then I was at a tournament with them and I got scouted by the top club in New York. I started with them and I basically played with them all through high school. I also played in high school, but my high school team was really bad. So I got recruited through my club.

A: I know typically California and Texas are the volleyball hubs, so what was it about the sport that made you stick with it despite that?

MJ: Well, I tried basketball. Did not like it. Definitely not a basketball girl. I always played with my friends, which was super fun. I came to this university with three of my teammates from my clubs. So that was a big thing for me. I’ve always loved my teammates. So just kind of stuck with it.

A: When did you decide you wanted to play in college, and on top of that what made you choose Wes as the perfect place to do that?

MJ: So because I lived in New York, my recruiting process started really late. I developed a lot later than a lot of players. I’ve always wanted to play in college. But I didn’t really know what that meant for me from my skill standpoint. But from the start, I got a lot of traction. I was talking to other schools, but it essentially came down to me wanting to pursue academics. Unfortunately, there’s no professional volleyball league in the U.S. So I decided that I wanted to prioritize my education over going to a Division I university that was less academically rigorous. So Wesleyan is the perfect combination.

A: Is there any significance behind your number, 16?

MJ: I’ve always been number three because that’s my lucky number. But when I came here, I got number 16. And it really started to resonate with me. And then my brother, who’s in high school ended up being 16. It’s so cute.

A: What’s your favorite part about playing volleyball and what’s the hardest part?

MJ: Well, the hardest part is definitely balancing academics with the amount of effort you have to put in during the season, especially at Wesleyan where it’s really academically rigorous. During freshman year, I struggled a lot with balancing my academics, and we travel basically half the season. And we’re driving to Maine for six hours. And then you play a game and end up at a hotel at like 11 p.m. So it’s very hard to study on the road. That’s always been really challenging. But I love the actual game. I love playing volleyball, I can play for hours, like any time we’ve had open gyms in the spring, I like to play forever. But also, having a team is like automatic 20 new best friends when you come in freshman year, and I’ve been really lucky Wesleyan has a great team. And it’s always people that you can count on. Like I would say that my best friends are on the team.

A: So going into the season, going into this season, what were your personal hopes for you and then also hopes for the team?

MJ: For me personally, I am really competitive. So I want to win. We’ve done a great job of that this season. We’ve all gotten to this mindset that we have to compete. Coach Ben [Somera] says all the time like it’s not so much about skill. It’s more about always competing. I think that was part of it. But also, I feel like with seasons that are this long, you always face some kind of adversity. Like last season, I ended up getting injured and it was hard for me to come back. And then this season, I got a concussion. So it’s just about not letting those adversities ruin what we had worked for, or what I had worked for individually. I guess it is a mental game. And I think that’s why we’ve been so successful, especially as a team that we pass a ball and we can just move on. 

A: I see that. I was at the quarterfinal game, and even if you lost the point, you came back with the exact same energy. And that’s really impressive. How do you stay mentally tough to get through injuries and keep pushing forward?

MJ: It really sucks. It really gets in your head. Because you see everyone else practicing and they keep improving, you feel like you’re falling behind. But again, our gym is super competitive. So you’re constantly competing. So instead of seeing it as like, “Oh, I’m missing out,” and I’m losing all these reps, it motivates you to work harder. And the standard is that you show up to practice, you sit through the two hours, you come to every team meeting that we have, and you are still a part of the team. And so by that you’re getting mental reps. And then when you come back after getting all those mental reps and continuing to be focused with the team, you persevere. 

A: This year, the team went 10–0 in the NESCAC regular season for the first time in team history. What did it feel like to earn that accomplishment and what do you attribute the team’s success to this season?

MJ: Last season was really hard on us, because we had worked so hard, and then we came runner up. And then in the regionals, we didn’t even make it to the Sweet 16. So I think that mentally, everyone was just like, all or nothing. Our seniors are especially super driven, they want to win this season. And I think that everyone has just kind of realized that it has to be a mentality. And everyone has to believe that we can do it, because we have the skill for it. But at the end of the day, everyone has to believe we are capable. And officially going 10–0 really hypes you up and shows us that we can do it.

A: In the final week of the regular season, you were awarded NESCAC Player of the Week for your performances versus Middlebury (3–2) and Hamilton (3–0). How did it feel to get that honor on top of the huge team wins that weekend?

MJ: I honestly wasn’t really expecting it. I knew I played well. Everyone else also played amazing that weekend. I was in the physics lab. And I was just checking our NESCAC standings, and I saw my picture on the website. I was like, “that’s weird.” So I was very excited. But I definitely do attribute all of my individual success to just having a great team that helps you get there, like our setters work so hard to get us good sets. And our defense has gotten so much better. Our DSs [defensive specialists] are incredible. So in part, I was super excited, because it was an individual accomplishment. But I was also really proud of what we had done that weekend.

A: So this past weekend, you guys swept Amherst in the quarterfinals. What were the expectations going into that game?

MJ: We feel like skills-wise, we have the skill to beat any team in the NESCAC. So going to Amherst, we knew that we had the skill to beat them. We’re the most offensive team in the NESCAC. So it was more of just keeping disciplined and doing our system responsibilities. Every game we have a target on our backs. So every single little mistake that you make or that one time that you missed that ball, a team can use that. And we’ve seen it with Bowdoin who was the number ten seed and beat Colby. So we definitely don’t want to be cocky. But we just have to understand that we’ve put in the work, so we just have to deliver.

A: This Friday you guys face Bowdoin, who has been a big rival for the team in the past several years. How are you feeling about the matchup?

MJ: It’s really interesting because Bowdoin has always been this mental block to the upperclassmen, because every time that they would go there, we would lose. So my class, and then the underclassmen never really experienced that. And I think that the seniors now experienced it a little bit, but not as much. So for us, this season, I even think our coach was a little nervous about it just because we got the team into this mindset that every time we play Bowdoin, we lose and we shouldn’t lose. But for us it’s like, “Why do we always think that way?” And so going into this match, I think we just want to prove that we’re the better team.

A: What’s one of your favorite memories of your time playing volleyball at Wes so far?

MJ: What I’ve always really enjoyed is the social aspect of it. I remember freshman year, our seniors hosted get togethers on Saturdays because we didn’t have practice. And it just felt so nice to have a group of people to hang out with and we cared so much about being social and having fun. And this year, too. I think our seniors have done a great job of integrating the freshmen and just having these super fun get-togethers where everyone can not think about school and not think about sports, and just have fun and be with their friends.

A: So last but not least, you talked about struggling when you were a freshman a little bit. But if you had any advice you could have given yourself when you were a freshman just coming in, regarding athletics or anything about being a student athlete, what do you think it would be?

MJ: For athletics, the biggest thing is confidence. You come into a team where they run a completely different system and you don’t know what’s going on. And it’s okay. It’s not important to be the best player in the gym. It’s just more important to learn to adapt, and to listen to what the seniors and the coaches are saying so that you’re able to integrate yourself to the team. As far as academics, I always tell the freshmen to ask for help. Because in high school, I was a very good student who got really good grades and was able to do it on my own. But college is obviously very different. And it wasn’t in my nature to go to office hours or ask a professor for an extension and stuff like that. And I always tell my freshmen, talk to your dean, talk to your professors, go to every office hour, they’re here to help you. And Wesleyan does a great job of this. So if I could tell my freshman self that, I definitely would.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

Ethan Lee can be reached at

Erin Byerly can be reached at