ALEX DRIEHAUS / DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
It did not matter to Jaime Kosiorek that Arizona State was the 25th ranked team in the country. At the very least, she did not know that it should matter.
On Aug. 31, 2014, then-freshman Kosiorek stood in the backcourt of first-year coach Deane Webb’s Ohio squad in the middle of the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the second match of her first weekend of college volleyball. One of the best teams in the Pacific-12, college volleyball’s strongest conference, which placed eight teams in the season-ending RPI Top 25, stood on the other side of the net. The Sun Devils had played seven sets to that point in the weekend and won them all, including the first in their match with the Bobcats.
Kosiorek began the second set with a kill assisted by Abby Gilleland. Then she got her first chance of the second set to serve and fired a ball nobody on the opposing side of the court could even touch. She fired another serve, also unreturned, to open a 3-0 set lead.
Once Arizona State narrowed the gap to 13-12, Kosiorek rattled off four of Ohio’s next five points, including three straight service aces. As a final touch, with Ohio a point away from taking the set, Kosiorek fired yet another laser-fast serve into the opposing court that went unreturned, handing the Sun Devils their first lost set of the season.
Provided via Barbara Kosiorek
Jaime Kosiorek serves the ball during a volleyball game in high school.
By the end of the day, Kosiorek would become just the second hitter in Bobcat history – and the first since 1985 – to record eight service aces in a match. She also totaled 13 kills, for good measure. Arizona State ultimately emerged with a 3-2 win, but there was plenty for Ohio to be excited about.
The new kid was here. And she was ready to put on a show.
Every freshman on the Kenston High School volleyball team received nicknames. Jaime earned hers early.
During her eighth grade year of volleyball, she approached Kenston volleyball coach Dan Coughlin during an open gym and asked if she could participate. After receiving the green light, Kosiorek darted straight past where many of the freshmen and sophomores were playing and spent the entire time practicing with the varsity team.
“I’d never met her,” Coughlin said. “I just stood there with a big smile on my face and thought, ‘Man, this girl’s got a lot of guts coming in here.’ ”
That was also the first time Coughlin had the chance to see Kosiorek’s serve, which as an eighth grader, was a raw but still lethal weapon. Kosiorek, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but now living in Chagrin Falls, had been on a Junior Olympic national team for two years already, a Cleveland-area club team that traveled around the country to play the sport’s top prospects.
Before starting high school, Kosiorek received her first college letter — one that happened to come from Penn State, a program that, at the time, was in the midst of chasing its third of what would become four straight NCAA titles.
When she took the court for the first time as a freshman, she walked out with a simple new alias: The New Kid.
“I’d never met her. I just stood there with a big smile on my face and thought, ‘Man, this girl’s got a lot of guts coming in here.’ ” Dan Coughlin, Kosiorek's high school volleyball coach
At the time, the moniker stood for Kosiorek’s age. Now, it is more representative of the way she plays the game. While many girls refine their patience and approach as their careers go on, Kosiorek still attacks with the same aggressive, swing-as-hard-as-possible mindset she did when she first began Junior Olympic play in seventh grade.
“Some kids are all about really high intelligence play, but they’re not one to just go bang the ball and go nuts,” Webb said. “That’s part of what drives Jaime. She loves being in the moment. She loves celebrating. She loves hitting the ball hard.”
It’s difficult to fault Kosiorek for such an approach when that reckless abandon has hardly ever let her down. She was conference MVP three times at Kenston, finishing second team All-Ohio as a junior and first team All-Ohio as a senior. She was also a first team all-national recipient with her club team, and was an All-American twice.
Just two seasons into her career at Ohio, Kosiorek already finds her name scattered around the Bobcat record books. A year after tying the program record for single-match service aces, she broke it with nine service aces at Buffalo on Oct. 10. Her 46 service aces as a freshman in 2014 is the fourth highest single-season total at Ohio, while her 1,125 attacks in 2015 rank as the eighth highest single-season total in Bobcat history.
Her career mark of 0.38 service aces per set is the best in program history.
“I really wanted to come in as a freshman and make an impact right away,” Kosiorek said. “For me, my serve was kind of like a fire thing. I had the power to get an ace if I put the ball where it needs to be. If we’re down, I can hit this ball hard, and change something on my side.”
It has been an action-packed two years for Kosiorek at Ohio, but for those who know her, it is hardly a surprise. While some see a court in the middle of the arena, Kosiorek sees a grand stage, not unlike those used for Broadway musicals, which Barb Kosiorek said her daughter is “obsessed with.”
Lauren Bacho / File
Ohio outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek celebrates with her teammates during Ohio's game against Florida Gulf Coast University on Aug. 27.
“Jaime likes to perform, and in a way she performs on the court,” she said. “She always performs when there’s people watching. She’s a very fierce competitor, and also very confident.”
And like any good play, Kosiorek has never had to carry the show on her own — far from it.
During her first two seasons at Ohio, she had the opportunity to play alongside two-time Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Gilleland and all-time Ohio digs leader Meredith Ashy. Together, they helped lead Ohio into a top-25 national team ranking during Kosiorek’s freshman year, and a MAC title and subsequent NCAA tournament appearance in her sophomore year.
Even after Ashy and Gilleland graduated, Kosiorek is joined in 2016 by loads of returning talent, headlined by senior outside hitter Mallory Salis, senior setter Brooke Coleman and redshirt junior middle blocker Ali Lake, any of whom can take over the court on any given night.
Kosiorek was the lone Bobcat to receive preseason All-MAC honors, for which she was voted first team.
For Kosiorek, however, individual honors come in as a distant runner-up when it comes to what she has planned for her final two years at Ohio.
“I’m just living in the moment,” Kosiorek said. “I don’t think the all-conference titles and stuff capture everything. I would love that all-conference honor. That’s great. But I think succeeding in my own eyes and in my teammates eyes and coaches’ eyes, having them recognize that I’ve done what I needed to do, is way more important.”
It is opening weekend for Ohio’s 2016 season. Kosiorek’s on the court — on her stage — and all eyes are on the freshman. That freshman, though, is a different “new kid.”
Lizzie Stephens, a freshman outside hitter, is standing out during a weekend in which Ohio is struggling. The fearlessness she exhibits in the 33 kills she records over the course of three matches catches the attention of teammates and coaches alike.
LEFT/TOP: Ohio outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek serves the ball during a game against Akron on Oct. 4, 2014. (SETH ARCHER / FILE)
MIDDLE: Ohio outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek serves the ball during Ohio's game against Florida Gulf Coast University on Aug. 27. (LAUREN BACHO / FILE)
RIGHT/BOTTOM: Ohio's Jaime Kosiorek spikes the ball during a game against Ball State at The Convo on Oct. 16, 2015. (OLIVER HAMLIN / FILE)
Kosiorek listens to Stephens tell the postgame interviewers that she simply tried to hit everything as hard as she could and is hit with a wave of nostalgia. It is nostalgia for what Kosiorek was two years ago, for what she calls the “beautiful thing” about playing as a freshman.
“It’s nice to look back on those moments,” Kosiorek said. “Those moments remind you to get back to that girl who had the fire under her and wasn’t afraid of what might happen.”
Now a junior, Kosiorek is in a bit of a transition period. Her serve is weakened for the time being, held back by shoulder problems that flared up in the preseason. She is also without the teammate, Gilleland, whose fiery persona on the court fed Kosiorek’s own so well. She is now responsible not just for creating her own energy, but for helping mold the next generation of Bobcat stars.
“The setter’s job is to make the young hitter look good,” Webb said. “The last two years, Jaime was the hitter. And now it’s reversed … as a junior, her job is to make a young setter look good. And that takes some time.”
It is a challenge Kosiorek can look forward to encountering throughout the rest of her tenure. After all, as a middle childhood math and science major, teaching others is something she plans to be doing for a long time.
But that does not mean the fire has to burn any less brilliantly — perhaps only that it must be a slightly more controlled burn.
The show will always go on. Even after the new kid grows up.