|Tino’s Greatest Hits- by Garrett
Jennifer Constantino ’04 wants more than to be remembered as a great volleyball player
and a great student-athlete; she wants a volleyball championship for Haverford.
Constantino’s commitment to a diversified college experience started well before she became a student at Haverford. With athletic scholarship offers from top volleyball schools such as Georgia Tech and academic interest from many others, Constantino had her options open. She came to Haverford because she saw it as a place where she would be able to expand her horizons in every direction. “[Haverford] was just somewhere where I could see myself being genuinely happy for the next four years, and getting a lot out of both academically and athletically.”
Indeed Constantino, or “Tino,” as she is known among teammates and friends, was very interested from an early age in the small-school atmosphere that Haverford provides. A story she likes to tell is of her first visit to a tri-co campus as a young girl. Her grandmother worked in the Swarthmore bursar’s office, and Constantino and her family went to visit. Upon seeing the campus, Jen told her father that Swarthmore was where she wanted to go to college. Over a decade later the dream had not waned, and when it came time to choose colleges Constantino was left with a difficult choice. “When I went to choose schools, and it came down to the last moment, I was choosing between coming to Haverford or going to our close rival down the road, Swarthmore. When push came to shove, I went back and re-visited both schools, and I stayed with the volleyball team at Haverford one more time, and it just felt right here.”
The choice to come to Haverford was a big one for Jen, but it is one that she has not regretted. When she came in as a frosh, Tino, like many Haverford students, had perceptions of Haverford as a kind of Utopia. Three years later, she realizes that whereas that vision was not the case, it has done nothing to diminish the school in her eyes. “Even if things haven’t always been perfect, I think people have always tried to make it as good as it can be, and I think that people are passionately involved here, and that means more to me than having a perfect ‘Haverbubble.’” Jen has been able to mold her initial perceptions of the school into a pragmatic appreciation of Haverford.
This appreciation is due in large part to Constantino’s excellence in academics and extra-curriculars. However, her athletic accomplishments have gained her fame both on and off campus. In just three seasons, she has become the Haverford leader in nearly every offensive statistical category, including kills, kills per game, attacks, attack percentage, points, and points per game. Constantino led the Centennial Conference with 3.84 kills per game and .324 attack percentage in the 2002 season, giving her 1,348 for her career. She is one of only three players in Haverford history to record 1,000 kills in a career. During the 2002 campaign, Tino continued her success, leading the team offensively in attacks and kills. She is also the owner of the single-match records for kills with 35, which she set as a freshman. During that same year Constantino recorded 537 kills, a school record. Coach Bergin notes that Jen’s offensive success is in her ability to understand the game, and the opponent’s defense: “She notices many weaknesses of the opponent and tells her team. All this leads to defenses fearing her. She may not be the hardest hitter, but she is one of the smartest, quickest, and determined hitters on the court. But most of all she has a wonderful time playing.”
She also understands the importance of defense, last season leading the Fords with 3.87 digs per game, while owning the Fords’ record for digs in a match with 38, set this past season against Conference rival Gettysburg. Bergin again has high praises to sing about Constantino, this time in the defensive department. “An excellent defensive player is one who notices a play develop on the other side of the net. An excellent defensive player has excellent body control to receive hard hits as well as soft ones. An excellent defensive player knows the offense’s tendencies and puts herself in the right position to receive the ball. Jen has acquired all of these. She may not be the quickest defensive player on the team but she reads offenses very well which gives her that edge.”
And her achievements have not gone unrecognized. Constantino has been the recipient of many awards acknowledging her academic and athletic accomplishments. She was named to the First Team All-Centennial Conference in 2002 for the third time in her three-year career. Only two other players have ever been so named, indicating that Constantino’s dominance is on a league-wide level. She has also been recognized as a top scholar-athlete, being named to the Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll. A political science and economics double major at Haverford, Constantino served as a summer intern to U.S. House Representative Curt Weldon last summer after serving as a summer research assistant to Haverford professor Stephen McGovern in 2001.
In addition to Conference accolades for her athletic and academic achievements, Constantino was named to the 2002 Verizon College Division Academic All-District II Volleyball First Team. She has also been named to the AVCA All-Mid Atlantic Region team twice during her career, as well as being team MVP in her freshman and sophomore years. Jen also received the prestigious Archibald MacIntosh Award in 2001, awarded to the top scholar-athlete in the freshman class. Coach Bergin describes Constantino as “smart, patient, and feared,” sentiments which are surely echoed by all defenses throughout the league.
While Constantino’s statistics speak for her as one of the premier volleyball players in Haverford history, she has always been able to keep her own success in perspective. “It’s an incredible honor to be on the list of people who have achieved 1,000 kills in their career, but I don’t necessarily see it as a personal achievement, because for every kill that I had in the context of a game means that someone on my team had a perfect pass, and someone else set the ball to me. It was a team effort for everything.” The sentiments reveal that Constantino’s main goal while at Haverford goes far beyond the realm of individual statistics and accolades. Her goals lie with the success of the team, and the ultimate prize of becoming Centennial Conference Champions. Her words do not beat around the bush: “My goal has always been to win the league championship.” These are goals which directly parallel those of Coach Bergin: “Each year, the program’s goal is to win the Centennial Conference and have players named to the All-Conference team. This should lead to an NCAA berth with players on the All-American roster. Our immediate goals include the physical and mental aspects of the team, which will lay the foundation for the program. This program should be well-respected and feared. Over the long-term, we should be known nationwide for our academics as well as for our volleyball program. This program should be nationally ranked year in and year out – we really are on the verge of becoming one of the greatest Division III volleyball programs.”
Tino and her teammates have all bought into that philosophy, and the volleyball program has achieved a level of success unparalleled in its history. The Fords compiled a 22-10 overall record in 2002, while going 8-2 in the league. In the past two seasons, they have beaten conference foes McDaniel, Gettysburg, and Franklin & Marshall for the first time in history. Tino is very optimistic about the prospects of the 2003 volleyball season. “We have a lot of very serious volleyball players, and we have a lot of very young talent, so I see all our goals becoming extremely reachable in the near future.” The addition of Coach Amy Bergin to the program has helped position the Fords one step closer to their goal. The attitude on the team has changed, and the players and coaches are on the same page. “We have an understanding on the team; as long as they respect themselves, their teammates, and their coaches, everything should fall into place. With that said, we have achieved a common ground of commitment and dedication. I have high expectations of my team and they have high expectations of me. If we stay on this level, we will achieve all goals.”
Constantino had positive things to say about the change at the helm: “We’ve really come together as a team, and I think we’re all having a lot more fun playing volleyball this past season than we’ve had in the past, and when you’re having fun, when you’re playing, you play with a passion, and as a team, and everything just seems to come together. We’re in great shape; we’re learning new things, and I think the coach and player are on the same page in terms of what they want to accomplish.” Having goals is the first step to success, but the Fords have taken it one step further and acted on those goals. They have committed themselves to a strict strength and conditioning regimen, both during the season and now in the offseason. However, despite the physical pain, the player’s commitment has been kept in perspective. Coach Bergin is clear on her expectations from her players, but also ensures that they are having a positive experience while performing: “The athletes are expected to give every ounce of energy, focus, and attention during practices and conditioning sessions both in and out of season when they are at practice . . . all this must be done because they want to and enjoy it . . . they play the sport because they love it and have fun in the process.”
All of this dedication is a reason why the Haverford volleyball program was enticing to Constantino when she was looking at colleges. She saw that there was a lot of potential for the Fords’ program, and that it was poised to make strides into the future. “When I was a prospective student, I saw the talent that was already on the team, and got to talk to players on the team like Steph Frank and Alisha Scruggs, and saw where they thought the program was going. So, I think we have followed our goals pretty well, and looking back, I think we have followed where I thought we were going be, and I do see us winning a league championship and going to nationals, and I’ve seen that since the day I first walked in as a freshman.”
It is safe to say that Constantino has had a huge impact on both the Haverford sports scene as well as on Haverford life since her matriculation here in 2000. She has given much of her time and energy as a student trainer in the athletic department, working closely with other student-athletes. Jen is also a very active member of the Haverford College Athletic Association Executive Board, and has represented Haverford at the Apple Conference, a conference on issues facing student-athletes, for the past two seasons. Jen has also been named a co-captain for the 2003 volleyball squad, along with Jelyn Meyer. Bergin praises Jen’s leadership capabilities: “She has earned the respect from all teammates and coaches due to her dedication to bettering herself as an athlete and a person. Her non-stop hunger for learning more about the game of volleyball shows that she has become one of the most knowledgeable players on the court which, in turn, forces her to become a better volleyball player. She is not a selfish athlete by any means. Once she understands one aspect of the sport, she shares it with her teammates. Having this respect and knowledge allows her to love the game even more, which brings out such a competitive attitude. This is a great attitude toward the sport, toward competition, and toward her teammates and her coaches. She’s one of those players and the type of person you want around you; she is a ball of positive energy with a smiling face.”
Over the years, Constantino has become a familiar face on the Haverford campus, both in the classroom and on the court. In both of these areas she has excelled, but Jen is the first to admit that it was a team effort. Perhaps she sums up her success best when she says; “It makes it easy to succeed when you know you have people who are willing to help you do it.
In the rare moments that he’s not playing Nintendo Mario Kart or working for the Haverford Athletic Department, junior English major Garrett McVaugh ’04 of Hamilton, N.Y., plays varsity cricket, captains the College’s golf and ice hockey clubs, and deconstructs literary criticism.