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The University Star

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Fitzgerald, teammates reflect on program history

Texas+State+graduate+student+outside+hitter+Janell+Fitzgerald+%2816%29+celebrates+with+her+teammates+during+a+match+against+James+Madison+University%2C+Saturday%2C+Oct.+1%2C+2022%2C+at+Strahan+Arena.

Texas State graduate student outside hitter Janell Fitzgerald (16) celebrates with her teammates during a match against James Madison University, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Strahan Arena.

Texas State volleyball hitter Janell Fitzgerald has been named Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week seven times, is NCAA’s active leader in career matches and is the third student in program history to surpass 1,500 career kills.
Fitzgerald, a graduate student with a degree in health science, took sole possession of the first place spot in program history for career kills at Texas State with 14 on Oct. 28 in a 2-0 series win against Arkansas State.
For Fitzgerald, these accomplishments have meant a lot to her, her team and the program that helped get her to where she is.
“This was pretty big for me, trying to leave my legacy here and being a part of something so big and to just be recognized for not only me but my whole team was great,” Fitzgerald said. “Everyone has helped me get to this point and just really making sure that I understand that I believe in myself and keeping my mental health first and everything mentally contributes a lot to it.”
Fitzgerald’s volleyball career started back in 2018 at Texas State and since then she has made her presence known on the court. Having undergone a coaching staff change in 2019 when head coach Karen Chisum retired, she had depended on her teammates to be there for her. When Sean Huiet was promoted to head coach in 2020, Fitzgerald was able to see volleyball in a new light.
“I’ve gone through a new coaching change too, although [Huiet], was here from the very beginning, these new coaches have brought a whole different understanding of volleyball to me,” Fitzgerald said.
Emily DeWalt, a graduate setter, has played alongside Fitzgerald for most of their college careers. DeWalt’s expectation of her is to be a great leader on and off the court.
“When we get into crunch time, she is usually the person we depend on to put the ball down. It’s not easy being that person because it comes with a lot of pressure, but I think she does a really great job of handling it,” DeWalt said.
Fitzgerald values her teammates knowing that they have her back and she can be there for them. According to sophomore setter Ryann Torres, Fitzgerald pushes her to be the best she can be for the team.
“Since my freshman year, Janell and I instantly clicked. Having a best friend there to motivate you and to lean on has helped me tremendously. She has made me see things from different perspectives that have helped me grow as a player,” Torres said.
When Fitzgerald first started, she would start to play only three rotations and has now begun to play all around the court, which to her was a big change. When she was named the 2021 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, she felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and shock.
“Having the title as a whole is very special, considering that’s not something I thought I would be able to achieve, and being able to know that other people thought the exact same thing and they’re seeing the hard work you’re putting in was very special,” Fitzgerald said.
With all her accomplishments she has remained a humble and uplifting player for her team and the volleyball program. Fitzgerald’s personality shines through the court and her teammates agree that she brings a sense of relief and enjoyment to the court.
“Having had the opportunity to now have played with Janell for five years, we have formed a special bond on the court. For me personally, I think that she has made me relax and have a little more fun out on the court,” DeWalt said. “From an athletic standpoint, I think that she has pushed me to up my game every year. We know every year teams are coming after us and we do a great job of keeping each other honest and pushing each other to get at least 1% better every day.”
For what remains of Fitzgerald’s last season at Texas State, she is taking each game one by one. Hoping to win another championship and possibly more awards, Fitzgerald is ready to leave it all on the court.
“We obviously have big goals of leaving our mark and our legacy and getting another championship underneath our belt but it will take one game at a time,” Fitzgerald said.

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