Jill Baker has traveled a long, productive path since her days playing on the Turlock Christian High volleyball team. During her time as an Eagle, she helped lead the team to Sac-Joaquin Section title appearances. After that, she moved onto Azusa Pacific University, a school located near Los Angeles. She had an incredible career there, culminating in winning the NAIA Volleyball Player of the Year award in 2009.
Now, she’s playing professionally in Switzerland, as a member of Volley Franches-Montagnes of National League A — the country’s premier league.
The Turlock Journal had a chance to catch up with Baker during an e-mail exchange, in which she talked about living and playing in another country and how Turlock Christian shaped her volleyball career.
Q. How's Switzerland? What part of Switzerland are you in? Tell me about where you live and if you like it. Had you ever been there before, let alone out of the country?
A. Switzerland is absolutely beautiful! I’m in a small mountain town called Saignelegier. It’s in the Jura region in the French speaking part. I really love exploring various cities nearby and am slowly learning French due to mandatory French class we have. I had been out of the country before but this is my first time to Switzerland.
Q. Talk about trying out for this pro team. What was the experience like? And has this always been a goal of yours, to play professionally?
A. I didn't have to try out for this team. Based on my college career and a highlight video that my current coach had seen, I was offered a contract. Throughout college, it was always a thought in the back of my mind to play professionally somewhere, but I wasn't really sure how it would work. An opportunity to continue to play happened to present itself and I decided to go for it. I didn't want to regret passing this up later on.
Q. Talk about the differences of playing on a foreign team than one on American soil? Is the game different? How are your teammates?
A. The game is a little bit different over here. One of the biggest changes is that you can only enter the game once during a set. Although this seems minor, this changes the strategy of the game a lot. This means that it is important to be a well-rounded player. Otherwise, it’s basically the same game. My teammates are great. I’m fortunate to be on a team with six other Americans. Most teams in our league only have two Americans, max. We also have five Swiss players.
Q. When you think about your experience at Turlock Christian, what comes to mind?
A. I really enjoyed my time playing at Turlock Christian. I think of the times we played at UC Davis for the Section finals and riding in a limo there and the incredible support we had from our friends and family. High school volleyball was a lot of fun and I definitely look back on it with some great memories.