Prairie Ridge’s Jayden Otto fulfilled a lifelong dream when she and her teammates played in the Class 4A girls volleyball state tournament at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena on the final weekend of the high school season.
Otto, a four-year starter, called going to state “a dream come true.”
The Wolves (29-12) took fourth in their first state trip in 13 years and won the Fox Valley Conference championship, going 15-1. In her last season at Prairie Ridge, Otto recorded 550 assists, 26 blocks and 102 digs, culminating in the Wolves’ third state appearance since 1997.
For her accomplishments, Otto was selected Northwest Herald Girls Volleyball Player of the Year by the sports staff with input from area coaches. She becomes the first Prairie Ridge player to win the award since Hillary Haen, who won three in a row from 2004 to 2006.
Next fall, Otto will play at NCAA Division I Eastern Michigan with former Prairie Ridge teammate Mackenzie Garis. She ends her high school career with 2,648 assists, the 16th most in state history, according to IHSA.org.
Otto recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about her dream job, what she eats before a big game, her favorite professional athlete and more.
What will you miss most about Prairie Ridge?
Otto: The amazing teachers. They’re very supportive and help me be the best person I can be. I’ll also miss my coach, my mom (Stefanie Otto). I’ll miss her a lot. I’ll miss the people at Prairie Ridge.
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
Otto: (Golden State Warriors point guard) Stephen Curry.
What do you think is the strongest part of your game?
Otto: My leadership and my communication. Knowing where everyone should be on the court.
Do you have any rituals or superstitions before you play?
Otto: We wore the same jersey every match this postseason, our white ones, because we just got them, and they’re awesome. Before games, I keep to myself. I’m kind of quiet. I just put my headphones in.
Which teammate makes you laugh the most?
Otto: Hannah Baudin – she’s crazy. Or Sammi (Lockwood), because she’s an awkward, 6-foot-3 girl.
Which teammate inspires you the most?
Otto: Sammi. She works very hard, and we motivate each other to be the best players that we can be.
What is your favorite movie and TV show?
Otto: My favorite movie is “Footloose,” the new one (from 2011). And I love “The Voice.”
What is your favorite pregame meal?
Otto: I might have noodles, pasta or lasagna. Or I’ll have an energy bar or a granola bar. Just enough for energy. I like fruit.
If you could have dinner with three people from any time in history, who would they be?
Otto: Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson.
Is there a special significance to your uniform No. 20?
Otto: It’s my birthday, Oct. 20.
What is your favorite wild animal?
Otto: I love sloths.
Who is your hero?
Otto: I look up to my sister (Taylor Otto) a lot. She motivates me because she was injured for a good six months to a year when she played, and I know coming back from injury isn’t fun and a lot of hard work. I was only out for three weeks this year. I can’t imagine what she went through.
What would be your dream job?
Otto: My dream job is kind of silly, but I would love to be a singer. I’d love to be famous for that.
What was your favorite Disney movie when you were growing up?
Otto: My favorite Disney movie growing up and still is “The Little Mermaid.”
What is your favorite class in high school?
Otto: Spanish. I love learning the language. I went to Costa Rica a couple of years ago, and I absolutely loved it. I hope to minor in Spanish in college.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Otto: To live every day like it’s your last because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
If you could change one thing about volleyball, what would it be?
Otto: Some rules are different in club and high school. In club, you can go under the net if no one is by you. In high school, you’ll get called if your foot is over the line. I don’t always agree with that sometimes.
What is your favorite ice cream?
Otto: You can’t go wrong with cookies and cream.
What was your favorite match from this past season?
Otto: Either the sectional final where we beat Crystal Lake Central, because we wanted revenge. I know I did. Or the supersectional (a 29-27, 25-14 win over Loyola) was insane. It was so loud in that gym.
Who is the best athlete in your family?
Otto: We’re all pretty good athletes, but I’d say my brothers (Payton and Jackson) or me.
How did you become a setter?
Otto: It just ran in the family. My mom was a setter in college and stuck with it. Taylor was, too.
What is your most memorable moment playing volleyball?
Otto: Going to state. It’s always been a dream of mine. Ever since I was a little girl. I wanted to go.
What are you looking forward to the most at Eastern Michigan University?
Otto: A winning atmosphere. They’re in the NCAA tournament for the first time this year. (EMU women’s volleyball coach) Kimi Olson is amazing. The girls are amazing, and it’s really a family atmosphere. I just can’t wait to play.