There was a time when Jet Manzi did not play volleyball.
Flash back to when the Marlboro senior was much younger. Gymnastics was at the top of her list.
“I competed since I was about six years old,” she said. “I was home schooled for gymnastics and I won a state title, but it was just too much and I quit. I was really burned out. The hours and the training burned me out.
“I was a young girl. I was being trained like I was an Olympic athlete. It was too much.”
Manzi began playing volleyball as a sixth grader. She attended clinics at Rutgers University and began to love the sport.
“I have always been a one-sport kind of person,” she said. “I also did karate for a little while. I finally chose volleyball. I have not played another sport since the sixth grade. I like the competitiveness of volleyball and the fact it is such a team sport. There is no ball hogging. You have to use the whole team to do well. I feel I feed off that a lot.”
It’s rare when Manzi is not on the court. A member of the Atlantic Valley Volleyball Club, Manzi’s ability has taken her to numerous states around the country. And she’s been known to hit the beach in Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights.
“I love the energy and aggressiveness in volleyball,” she said. “It’s a real fun sport.”
Manzi said her gymnastics background has helped her on the court.
“The conditioning aspect of gymnastics prepared me for any sport,” she said. “In gymnastics, you have to know where you are at all times. The same goes for volleyball. I see everything.”
Manzi played four years of varsity for the Mustangs, seeing action at setter and outside hitter. She led the Mustangs to a share of the Shore Conference Class A North title with Wall and to the Shore Conference Tournament championship as a junior. Manzi this season paced Marlboro to second in the SCT.
“She has brought the program so far with her dedication, attitude and skills,: Marlboro coach Margie McNamara said. “She taught the girls how to play as a team.”
Manzi captained the Mustangs as a junior with Lili Meng. Manzi was the team’s captain this year.
“Even when Jet was a freshman and a sophomore, the older girls looked up to her because of her demeanor on the court,” McNamara said. “When she steps on the court, it’s, ‘Game’s on. Game’s on.’ She never ever gave up.”
Not even in this year’s SCT championship match against Southern Regional. Marlboro’s setter had issues, but Manzi kept battling.
“Our setter was called eight times for a double hit,” McNamara said, “but Jet never said anything about it. Jet is always about the team. She never said any disparaging word to anyone on the team. She never blamed anyone.”
Manzi has signed a National Letter of Intent to play at the NCAA Division I level at Lafayette College. She was recruited as an outside hitter and defensive specialist. An aspiring physical therapist, she will major in biology. Manzi chose Lafayette over Winthrop, Rutgers and Rider.
“When I visited Lafayette, I fell in love with the school,” she said. “I could not get over how beautiful it is. Its size was exactly what I wanted. The girls on the team are so unbelievably nice. The coach has a team of genuine girls who are nice people. That is what made me choose it.”