Northwest female high school athlete of the year: Fremd's Jess Mazur

Updated 6/8/2018 8:09 PM
  • Fremd's Jess Mazur leaps on a kill attempt in front of Palatine's Haley Holz during an MSL volleyball matchup last fall.

      Fremd's Jess Mazur leaps on a kill attempt in front of Palatine's Haley Holz during an MSL volleyball matchup last fall. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd's Jess Mazur, left, and Fremd's Lexi D'Ambrosio try to put the tag on St. Charles North's Alyssa Domaracki during sectional final play last weekend at Fremd.

      Fremd's Jess Mazur, left, and Fremd's Lexi D'Ambrosio try to put the tag on St. Charles North's Alyssa Domaracki during sectional final play last weekend at Fremd. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Jess Mazur didn't have to play volleyball last fall.

She was already committed to playing Division I softball at Georgia Southern.

She could have just spent all her time in the batting cage in those autumn months, preparing for her collegiate career

Instead, she batted away at the volleyball as an all-area middle blocker, five months before being named all-area in softball the second straight season.

Suffice it to say, Mazur's athletic mentality is why she chose to compete in two sports the past four years.

Her softball coach calls her the greatest Fremd hitter of all time.

Her volleyball coach calls her a 'rare' exceptional athlete.

You can also call her the Daily Herald's Northwest female high school athlete of the year. And she did just about everything in the batter's box except call her home runs.

And there were plenty to call.

Mazur became Fremd's all-time leader in home runs with 34 and also set the single-season record this spring with 16.

One of her blasts will not be forgotten soon.

In the Vikings' final regular-season game at the Bandits Stadium in Rosemont, Mazur probably hit the longest homer in school history, a shot that went 317 feet according to Google Earth.

"I have never seen one hit over 300 feet in a game," said Fremd softball coach Josh Teschner. "The fact that she was able to build that kind of torque on a low pitch and be able to drive it so far out of the park is remarkable.

"It just goes to show the strength she has not just at the plate but just full body strength and commitment to be a great athlete as well as a great hitter. We've had girls hit balls into the homers (behind left field fence at Fremd) and Jess has a couple of those.

"But the speed with which she was able to get the ball out of park in Rosemont was remarkable at the distance. That is a big stadium and she hit it almost to the highway back there -- remarkable, the longest shot I've ever seen."

Mazur said the swing was so perfect she couldn't even feel it.

"It was a clean swing and just felt effortless," she said. "Probably the most perfect swing I've had in a game. "I just squared it up. The timing and everything was right there."

The list of all of Mazur's hitting achievements is amazing. Out of 21 offensive career and single-season categories, Mazur ranks first or second in 13 of them.

In addition to the home run milestones, Mazur is also first in career records for RBI (155), extra-base hits (76) and total bases (318).

She is second all-time at Fremd in career doubles (40), second in runs scored (137), third in batting average (. 455), third in walks (74), second in hits (166) and ninth for at-bats (362).

Mazur's 48 RBI this spring place her second om Fremd's single-season list. Her 50 runs are also second and her 29 walks are tied for second.

She batted .580 this season, easily breaking the school record of .558 set by Donna Werling in 2004. She hit 14 doubles last year, which is tied for fourth most in a season.

While the home runs bring cheers, Mazur gets just as much satisfaction running the bases and scoring runs.

"If I get a chance to steal, I love it," she said. "Being on base in the middle of a game and being able to mess with the other team's defense is fun."

Don't be fooled. For 5-foot-9, Mazur is fast for her size.

"It's fun to use my speed," she said. "I don't have much but it is fun when I can get a run for my team."

Teschner loves how Mazur keeps other team's on the run with her savvy softball IQ.

"I think one of the things that makes Jess such a great player and leader for us in runs scored is her selfishness," the second-year coach said. "She knows that when she comes to the plate it doesn't have to be boom or bust.

"She can steal bases and her runs are a by product of that. She is a smart baserunner. She is just a savvy, savvy softball player."

Mazur credits her success to all her instructors, and to her sister Michelle, who also played at Georgia Southern.

"I was just trying to do what my sister did," said Jess about her start in softball. "She motivated me a lot to work hard and be able to do the things I've done.

"I remember my freshman year I had to learn a lot from the older girls ahead of me. It was a long process but I worked hard and just had so many people who helped with my mechanics and mental game to get better.

"And my parents (Bob and Christine) dedicated so much time to my sports and I really appreciate it."

Fremd girls volleyball coach Curt Pinley couldn't have appreciated Mazur any more. The veteran coach has won more than 900 matches combined between girls and boys teams at Fremd.

"For two seasons I was fortunate to have her anchor our middle attack," he said. "What I will most remember though is her smile and seeing her pure enjoyment of competing and being part of a team. She always approached each moment on the floor with a pure love for her teammates and the game."

That love for teammates stood out with Teschner, too.

"It's never about Jess," he said. "It's always about how she can help the team. How she can help the next batter and help her teammate in her next at-bat. She is one of the first girls to offer advice about approach in certain situations. She is tremendous."

Mazur used her tremendous athletic skills to lead Fremd's girls volleyball team with 38 blocks last fall.

She also put down 71 kills (team-high .333 hitting efficiency) to finish with 107 for her career. She fired 24 aces and had 38 for her career.

"I loved playing both sports," she said. "Volleyball kept me working in the fall and was a nice way to change things up in the fall."

Mazur also kept busy outside the sports world, maintaining a focus on volunteer work over the years.

She's been part of the Angels (father/daughter) Program caring for those in need, visiting shut-ins, singing to the elderly at senior and hospice homes and start a program in Cincinnati.

She has volunteered for youth volleyball instruction at Pleasant Hill School, for volleyball at the Special Olympics and as part of the youth group at her Harvest Bible Church.

While spending her summers playing travel softball across the country, she's found time for fishing, hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting and surfing.

Of course, during the school year the focus was on her two sports.

Mazur never imagined she'd leave Fremd as an all-area player in two different sports.

"I started playing volleyball late and just kind of got the hang of it," she said. "I started playing more because my coaches helped me get better."

"It is rare for today's athletes to play multiple sports," Pinley said. "It is even more rare to find the athlete who can be called exceptional in both. Jess is that rare 'exceptional.' "

Pinley clearly understood softball was Mazur's main sport.

"But you would never have known that watching her on the volleyball court," he said. "You were always aware of her intensity and desire to play at the highest level, whether it was a drill in the beginning of practice or match point in the third set."

Mazur helped the Vikings to the program's only MSL title, back-to-back MSL West championships, a regional title and Sweet 16 appearance.

Pinley said his program has shared players with the softball team many times over the years.

"Rob Harris (former softball coach), Jim Weaver (former softball coach) and Josh Teschner have always been a proponent of the multi-sport athlete," Pinley added. "As you look at the strength of the softball program over that long period of time, I know their success is because of the balance of the multi-sport athletes and the experiences they bring from those other sports. They have been able to tap into that rare athlete and in return have helped many of them to have successful careers beyond the softball diamond."

Mazur fits right in line.

"You would never mistake Jess' intensity for anything more than a pure will to want to win," Pinley added. "That part of her game is that intangible that comes from within an exceptional athlete. That kind of fire burns in few. I will miss seeing that flame from her next season. I thank her for being that multisport athlete who others can look to for inspiration."

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