April Jakubowski loved cheerleading as a middle schooler. From the acrobatics, the joy shown by the crowd, and of course, the actual cheering. He loved the sport, and he planned to continue it as long as possible until a mistake changed his future.
During the routine as a seventh grade student, he was tossed in the air and did not catch, landing in pain. Jakubowski suffered a sprained left knee and neck, and was optimistic that he would be able to return to cheerleading until he was advised to find another athletic endeavor.
“It was disturbing,” Jakubowski remembers.
With her cheerleading career, finding another sport wasn’t difficult. Jakubowski had played volleyball with his cousins for fun, and he was encouraged to try out for Lancaster’s team. He has never played volleyball as a regular sport, but he prefers to try something new.
“She decided to try something else and she decided to choose volleyball,” Lancaster coach Becky Edwards said. “It’s a coincidence because she’s been entertaining all her life and she decided to move on, and Lancaster volleyball is lucky she made that move.”
This week, he will lead Lancaster (18-0) into the New York State Athletic Association AA state semifinals. The tournament begins Saturday at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls with each semifinalist playing two sets against the other team. The two teams with the best records after Saturday will meet for the championship at noon on Sunday.
Jakubowski had a successful trial and made a modified team, and committed himself to the sport to get better. As an eighth grader, he was on the junior varsity, and as a freshman, he was a starter on the varsity.
“She’s been the starting setter since her freshman year and that’s pretty tough to do coming in so young and running an offense,” Edwards said. “He did a great job running our offense, and we’re glad we had him for another year.”
Jakubowski intrigued with volleyball. He is in awe of the type of player he can become because he knows his potential can only be reached based on his commitment. Jakubowski has gotten better every season and last season was named to the All-WNY team, and has put himself in a good position to make the team again. This season, she has 25 aces, 37 blocks, 146 digs and 576 assists.
“I think it’s because of the challenge I love the sport,” Jakubowski said. “There’s never a stopping point on how good you can get, you can only improve and I’m definitely a driven person and I like to be the best at what I do.”
In five years of playing volleyball, Jakubowski has become one of the best players in the program’s history and has established himself as a premier talent in Western New York. He is the first Lancaster player with at least 1,000 career assists.
During the team’s first nonleague game of the season against Sacred Heart Academy on Sept. 23, Jakubowski etched his name into the school notebook. After the feat, he appreciated the sign and felt the appreciation shown by his coach and teammates.
“He knew it was coming but because he was such a humble player, he never made it about himself,” Edwards said. “Even when we gave him a ball that said, ‘1,000 assists’ and painted a gold volleyball for him, he never brought himself up and brushed it off and said, ‘Thanks guys.’ He is very humble.
Jakubowski not only developed as a good player, but he became close friends with Edwards. The two have established a relationship that has Edwards in constant admiration due to Jakubowski’s maturity. Who he has become has allowed the coach to trust one of his leaders to deliver a message to the team when needed and also create to receive constructive criticism.
This is a bond not many coaches and players have and something that can be envied. The two have become almost one to the point, whenever they hug, which is usually after getting big, they share a long hug and some tears.
“I would say it’s because he’s really close to me, it means a lot,” Jakubowski said. “He just really believes in me and that’s what makes it really special. It created a strong bond between us, and I think that’s why we have a strong relationship inside and outside the court.
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