Nothingrnsays “appreciate the athletic gift you have been given” quite like a brokenrnankle.

Especiallyrnif you’re a top performer in your sport, playing not only for one of the Southland’srnleading high school teams, but also one of the country’s top-ranked club teams.

Suchrnwas the hand (or foot, actually) dealt to Ellis DeJardin, four-year star ofrnFlintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s girls’ volleyball team, who suffered herrnbroken ankle last summer while training for the 2017-18 school and clubrnseasons.

“Notrnthe way I envisioned my senior year happening,” grins the 5-foot-8 outsidernhitter and team captain. “And, yes, it was a challenge and definitelyrnfrustrating to go through rehab and not be in action.”

Butrnwhen one door closes…

“Beingrnwho I am, I couldn’t just sit around and watch my teammates and not helprnsomehow,” says DeJardin. “So I’d try to give instruction to my teammates wherernI could, without stepping on the coaches’ toes, and the experience reallyrnhelped me develop my skills as verbal leader — and to appreciate the times I’vernbeen healthy.”

Returningrnto action in early October (halfway through the season), DeJardin helped thernTologs win 15 of their last 17 matches (after losing 12 of their first 17) andrnreturn to the CIF-SS playoffs. She also helped her San Gabriel Elite VolleyballrnClub team to a third place finish in a national junior tournament, and hasrnearned numerous all-tournament, all-area and all-league team honors throughoutrnher career.

Allrnthe while, DeJardin continues to excel academically at FSHA, posting a 4.7 GPA,rnand serving as president of the school’s Renaissance Club that promotes unityrnamong staff and students. She’s also volunteered at Huntington MemorialrnHospital, and hopes to pursue a science career that entails “cognitivernresearch” of some kind, perhaps in the area of autism.

“Ellisrnis an extremely driven person, the epitome of a student-athlete,” says TrentrnTcheng, FSHA volleyball program coordinator and director of college recruitmentrnfor San Gabriel Elite Volleyball Club, where DeJardin has played since she wasrnin fifth grade.

“She'srnself-disciplined and always looks to master anything she attempts. She takes onrna very heavy academic schedule but is also constantly in the gym working herrncraft. She's that extremely rare player who highly excels at both academics and volleyball.” 

Growingrnstronger in faith

Boin Los Angeles and the oldest of four children, Ellis DeJardin attended HolyrnFamily Elementary School in South Pasadena and enrolled at Flintridge SacredrnHeart, following in the footsteps of her mom and an older cousin who playedrnvolleyball there.

“Irnlike the fact that ours is a Catholic school that welcomes people of allrnreligions, where you are taught to accept others,” she says. “I think it’s veryrnhelpful to have that multicultural, multi-faith component as part of yourrneducation, and at the same time you can grow stronger in your own faith. Beforernevery home game, we start with prayer, which reminds us of who we are, thatrnwe’re playing for a Catholic school, and with that comes responsibility forrnshowing good character and good sportsmanship.”

DeJardinrngot into volleyball at her local YMCA when she was in the second grade. “Irnthought it required the least amount of running,” she admits with a chuckle,rn“which I found isn’t true. But I soon realized how great it is to work with arnclose-knit group of girls on teams that are never too big or too small. It’srnlike having a second family, and that’s a big part of why I play.”

Andrnwhether she cared for running or not, DeJardin enjoys the fast pace ofrnvolleyball. “I tried softball for one season in fourth grade, and I didn’t likernhaving to wait for eight other batters in order to hit, or wait in the fieldrnfor a ball to be hit to you, which may never happen. In volleyball, I can countrnon touching the ball at least once in every rally.”

Actually,rnshe does more than touch the ball. As a junior, DeJardin posted 463 kills, 56rnblocks and 213 digs, plus a team-best 576 assists, and was among FSHA’s best asrna senior despite limited playing time following her injury.

Sherncredits her development as a person and player to her parents, who “alwaysrnencouraged me to work as hard as I can. My dad would always ask me, ‘Were yournthe hardest worker out there today?’ And my club coaches have made a huge impactrnon me, helping me realize my potential.”

Nextrnfall, DeJardin will take her volleyball and classroom skills 3,000 miles eastrnto Yale, where she’ll be on the same team with fellow Southland Catholic schoolrnvolleyballers Izzy Simqu (La Reina) and Yurika Boyd (Marymount).

“WhenrnI visited there last year, I really fell in love with campus, the oldrnarchitecture and the tradition,” she says with a smile. “And I was really drawnrnto the coaches and their philosophy. The team vibe and culture was everything Irncould want, with the most down-to-earth group of girls, and I’m super-excitedrnabout going there.”

Awayrnfrom the court, DeJardin loves classroom work that involves research. She and arngroup of fellow students in her Honors Scientific Research class recently werernawarded three Archer STEM Research Grants, sponsored by the Archer School forrnGirls.

Shernalso enjoys her work with FSHA’s Renaissance Leadership Organization, part of arnnationally recognized program designed to encourage and celebrate school unity,rnidentity, and values.

“It’srnabout building community, which as a Dominican school is one of our fourrnpillars,” she says, “and it’s really cool to bring together students and staffrnfor cool activities, like monthly sports tournaments and recognition of ourrnpolice and fire departments, that allow us to better know one another.”

Soon,rnher high school experiences will give way to other new challenges andrnopportunities, as DeJardin prepares for graduation in a few weeks’ time.

“It’srnexciting and sad to see high school come to an end,” she says. “I’ve reallyrnenjoyed my time here. But I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.”