Jessica Helms heard her cell phone ring Tuesday night and noticed ‘Coach Payne’ on the caller ID.
The Central senior libero pushed her Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry homework aside and said, “I hope this is the night.”
The IUPUI volleyball head coach offered Helms a scholarship on the condition she walk on her freshman season, and the Bearcat accepted the offer over the phone. Helms said her tuition for her freshman season will in all probability be covered by academic scholarships. She takes AP courses and her grade-point average is currently at 4.4.
IUPUI beat out Butler, Kent State and Northern Illinois for her services.
Helms said the Jaguars moved to the top of her list this past summer after she and her family visited the campus. Payne held off on offering her a scholarship, though, as he considered other recruiting targets.
Ultimately, the IUPUI coach decided on Helms and she accepted right away.
“I just really liked the campus, like the coaches a lot,” Helms said, “and obviously Alexis Mapes who I played with on the (Munciana) Samurai is there, and I talked to her and she likes it a lot.”
Helms said IUPUI recruited her to be a defensive specialist as a freshman and then potentially take over as libero her sophomore season. The current Jaguar libero, Beth Howard, just won her second consecutive Summit League Defensive Player of the Week honor.
The Central senior cracked the lineup as a defensive specialist toward the end of her freshman season and played in the Class 4A state title match against Penn. She then held the libero position for her final three seasons with the Bearcats.
She produced her best statistical season as a junior with 557 digs and 69 aces. Helms followed with 460 digs and 56 aces in seven fewer sets as a senior on an underclass-laden Bearcat team.
“She is a well-rounded ball-control player,” Central coach Wes Lyon said. “She passes well, she defends well, and I think will be a good addition to their lineup.”
The Bearcat moved up an age group to play defensive specialist this past club season for the national power Samurai. She credited that opportunity for exposing her to NCAA Division-I coaches.
Samurai coach Mike Lingenfelter noted Helms is a student of the game and puts in extra hours in the gym to improve her skills. In his opinion, her work ethic will put her in position to succeed at IUPUI.
“She’s diligent and cerebral,” Lingenfelter said. “She’s very committed to getting it done.”