Winning, records, awards, academics and smiles.
For starters, those five words begin to sum up Magda Jehlárová’s one-of-a-kind volleyball career at Washington State University.
Jehlárová’s remarkable five-year run – one of the most decorated careers in WSU athletics history – is winding down as the Cougars prepare for what they hope is a lengthy NCAA Tournament run, beginning with a first-round assignment Friday against Grand Canyon in Bohler Gym.
Jehlárová took a few minutes earlier this week to reflect on her time and growth in Pullman and how a fortunate confluence of events set it all in motion.
Let’s backtrack six years or so. Jehlárová’s gut reaction when the Cougars reached out to the Czech Republic native to gauge her interest in coming to the United States?
“I was very surprised,” Jehlárová said. “I didn’t know if it was real or fake.”
WSU’s intentions became quite clear when head coach Jen Greeny and assistant Shannon Hunt watched Jehlárová play for the Czech Republic U19 team at a tournament in Italy. Associate head coach Burdette Greeny, recruiting coordinator and Jen’s husband, also flew overseas to visit Jehlárová and her family.
Jehlárová was an accomplished player in her home country, but she wasn’t really considering college volleyball in America prior to hearing from the Cougars. A few other schools eventually reached out, but Jehlárová was set on Washington State.
The rest, as they say, is history, or in this case history-making for Jehlárová and WSU’s program. Earlier this week, Jehlárová became the first five-time All-Pac-12 first-team athlete in any sport in conference history. This season’s All-American teams haven’t been announced, but Jehlárová has been honored three times (first, second and third team) with another designation possibly on the horizon.
“It goes without saying, she’s pretty irreplaceable,” said Jen Greeny, who has led WSU to eight consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Jehlárová was a high-level blocker when she arrived at WSU. Through the years, she has expanded her leadership skills and offensive repertoire .
“When I first got here, I was a little scared, but now I try to give a lot of feedback to my teammates and help them in any way possible,” she said.
“First and foremost, she’s just a natural blocker, reads the game well, she’s explosive and she can get across the net,” Greeny said. “She’s worked hard to extend her range (on offense). When she first got here, she really only wanted to run in front of the setter. The last couple years she’s been going everywhere across the net.”
WSU outside hitter Pia Timmer, a fifth-year senior from Germany, said she’s never played with a middle blocker like the 6-foot-3 Jehlárová.
“It’s all of her blocks, honestly,” said Timmer, recounting what stands out about Jehlárová. “When they go straight down and her whole head is over the net, it’s almost like when you watch guys play. Straight down and nobody has a possibility to dig.”
“Beside her natural blocking and being able to shut somebody down, there are those moments where she seems like she’s hanging in the air,” Greeny said. “The set is a little too high and she floats in the air a little longer and gets the kill.”
Jehlárová’s name is stamped all over WSU’s record book. When this season ends, she’ll likely occupy four of the top five spots – and also No. 7 – in single-season hitting percentage (minimum 225 attempts). She’s first in career blocks in school history with 753. That also ranks first in NCAA history in the rally scoring era (since 2001). She’s four blocks away from becoming the Pac-12’s all-time leader.
She was named 2022 Pac-12 Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year as well as second-team Academic All-American. Last time she checked, she was carrying a 3.8 grade-point average.
“I’m very thankful for all of them,” Jehlárová said, “but I really see them as team awards because I know I wouldn’t be able to do it without my teammates.”
Greeny and Jehlárová share a team-centric opinion of awards. Jehlárová’s stats and achievements certainly put her name into the discussion of best player in program history.
As Greeny points out, it’s difficult to compare players from different eras – side-out scoring, pre- and post libero, rally scoring with games to 30 points or 25. A list of WSU all-time greats likely includes Sarah Silvernail, Greeny (formerly Stinson), Taylor Mims, Kyra Holt, LaToya Harris, Carrie Couturier, Keri Killebrew, Stephanie Papke, Meagan Ganzer and Timmer.
Silvernail, the 1996 Pac-12 Player of the Year, is WSU’s single-season and career kills leader, fourth in career blocks and second in career hitting percentage (minimum 2,000 attempts). Silvernail and Greeny were teammates for two years, including on the 1996 team that reached the Elite Eight.
“That’s a tough question,” said Greeny, when asked to compare Silvernail and Jehlárová. “It’s a different day and age in volleyball. Sarah was a middle that played all the way around, no libero, having to pass and hit out of the back row. I think they’re both great players. They both dominated in their own way.”
Jehlárová often dominates with a grin on her face before, after and even during plays.
“I just try to keep a very positive mindset, no matter what’s going on,” she said. “It’s super helpful for my game. I’ve been told when I play my best I’m smiling a lot.”
Jehlárová chuckles when telling a reporter her name is mispronounced more than half of the time during WSU road matches. It’s pronounced Yell-uh-hah-sh-uh-v-uh, according to the team Website.
She’s optimistic WSU can make a long run in the NCAA Tournament. After that, her plan is to turn professional and she’s looking into a new league in the U.S. or possibly overseas.
She looks back on her decision to move 5,000-plus miles from home to Pullman as one that changed the course of her life.
“For sure,” Jehlárová said. “I wouldn’t have stayed for five years if I didn’t think it was a good decision. Definitely, I would do it again.”