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Right where she wants to be

J.J. Curry catches a break and earns spot with FLC volleyball
J.J. Curry of Fort Lewis College waves to her family before playing Metro State University on Saturday at FLC. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

J.J Curry made three straight kills at the end of the second set on Tuesday to help the Fort Lewis College volleyball team down Western Colorado, 25-15, and tie the match at one game a piece. The 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter finished with seven kills on the night as the Skyhawks beat the Mountaineers, 3-1.

J.J. Curry of Fort Lewis College kills the ball while playing Metro State University on Saturday at FLC. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Curry has emerged as one of the team’s top weapons this year with 1.95 kills per set, trailing only Alexis Hobie (3.09) and Lauren Shea (2.09) on the team.

“I think I bring a calm demeanor to the court,” Curry said. “Mechanically, I really like blocking. It’s one of the best feelings in the world and everybody gets so hyped.”

She got that feeling twice earlier this season in a game against Lubbock Christian.

J.J. Curry, right, and Alexis Hobie of Fort Lewis College go up for a block while playing Metro State University on Saturday at FLC. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Curry’s journey to land on FLC’s team, however, took a little luck and some incredible timing.

Curry grew up just down the road in Farmington and was focused on swimming when she was younger.

“For a long time, swimming was my favorite,” she said. “I wanted to go to college for swimming and was willing to miss volleyball for it.”

At the end of her sophomore year, however, her volleyball team at Farmington High School got a new coach, Alana Rowland, and she changed Curry’s trajectory.

“She pulled me aside and said, ‘I think you can become good enough at volleyball to make it to college and I can help you,’” Curry said.

After that, Curry said she kept swimming to stay in shape, but volleyball became her priority.

In 2018, she had several kills in a 3-1 win over Durango High School at Durango. “Durango wasn’t really a rivalry, but we did want to beat them,” she said.

Curry, however, wanted to play volleyball in Durango, for the Fort.

“In high school, I wanted to get recruited by Fort Lewis; it was in my top-three,” Curry said. “It’s crazy I’m here now.”

J.J. Curry of Fort Lewis College sets the ball while playing Metro State on Saturday at FLC. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

After she graduated from Farmington High School, Curry first played junior college ball for Franks Phillips College in Borger, Texas, in 2019. She then played at the NAIA level for Arizona Christian University in Phoenix, where she also played beach volleyball, during the 2020 season.

COVID-19 made playing volleyball tough that year and she said she also starting thinking about a career, so Curry attended the Parker College of Chiropractic, which has no athletics, in Dallas, Texas, in 2021. But that wasn’t the right place for her either.

“I realized I didn’t want to do that,” she said. “It’s a lot of money if you’re not 100% into it.”

Curry said she liked Durango, so she took a semester off and moved back to the area.

While back, Curry said she got talked into playing in a grass volleyball league, which might be her least favorite surface to play on.

Joining that league, however, ended being the break Curry needed.

“The first team we played was Robin’s,” Curry said, referring to FLC assistant volleyball coach Robin Dalton. “She told me after the game that I had a pretty good arm swing.”

Curry didn’t know Dalton was a coach at FLC until she started putting the nets away after the game because FLC was helping with the league.

“I said, ‘hey, I’m going to be (at FLC) in the spring. I don’t care about money. I will be a practice player if given a tryout,’” Curry said.

J.J. Curry of Fort Lewis College dives for the ball while playing Metro State University on Saturday at FLC. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

They exchanged emails and later Curry attended a practice. After playing at two previous colleges, however, Curry’s eligibility was uncertain. The year she didn’t play ball while attending Parker College, however, ended up being the exact amount of time off she needed to take to be eligible to play for FLC this fall.

“I had registered for classes before I was on the team,” Curry said. “It sort of worked out perfectly; I played in that game that I didn’t want to, sat out the required amount of time. It’s crazy. The timing was perfect.”

And now that she’s here, Curry is happy with the team and the school.

“I really like the program here, it was a pleasant surprise,” she said. “Coach G (Giedre Tarnauskaite) cares about us a lot, which is nice. She’s very communicative about what she wants from us. She’s awesome. The environment when you walk in the gym just feels good.”

Curry, who is Navajo, also said FLC has a lot of resources for Natives and she takes advantage of them when she has the time. Especially when fry bread is involved.

“It’s definitely super cool,” she said. “This is the most support I’ve gotten from a school.”

Curry is majoring in exercise physiology with a minor in coaching at FLC. She said she wants to coach and stay within sports, possibly working as a recruiting coordinator at some point.

Her favorite thing about volleyball, she said, is just playing and the team aspect, and the year she took off made her realize how much she missed playing and all of the support.

“I love being on a team and having that support around you all of the time,” Curry said. “A year ago, I never would have imagined I would be here. It makes me so happy every time I think about it. I’m very thankful and hope I make the most of my time here.”

J.J. Curry warms up for Fort Lewis College before playing Metro State University on Saturday at FLC. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)