Justice Magraw spent much of her first season at Washington pedaling away on the sidelines and watching her teammates bang the ball around the various gyms in Alaska Airlines Arena. The Redmond native joined the team as a walk-on despite being in the process of rehabbing a torn ACL in her knee, and many early practices were spent strengthening the knee on a stationary bike. Now the redshirt freshman is fully healthy and got to make her home debut on Sept. 3 in the arena where just a few years ago she watched from the stands and dreamed of being a Dawg.
GoHuskies.com: What has it been like finally getting to go through practice every day and get on the court in a few matches?
Justice Magraw: Coming back was really exciting, but very hard because of my whole knee injury. I hadn’t played for a really long time. But it’s definitely easier with these girls because they’re so supportive, and the coaches have been really helpful. This season, having contributed on the court in practice and then seeing it played out during games, is on a whole other level. Last year I was so excited and it was fun to watch, but now I understand more of what we’re working on. I think you get a lot more out of it when you’re a part of it everyday. It’s been awesome and I’m excited to see what we do.
GH: Was there a specific moment where it really felt like you were part of the team?
JM: I think it took a while because I had to really get used to the idea that I was on the team. It seems kind of weird, but growing up and watching this team for so long, it was very surreal at first, so I had to really kind of realize that this was happening. I think a lot of it happened during Italy, when we went on our trip. Just being with the team every day and playing in my first game. I think being there in that team atmosphere really connected that for me.
GH: What was it like getting into your first match this season?
JM: Our first home match was terrifying, but it was so exciting! I could hear the crowd, I could feel the nerves, my teammates were like, “Just hit your serve”. I remember the first toss, but I don’t remember part of it. It was kind of like an out-of-body experience. But it was really exciting and exhilarating. I’m glad I got to do it. And my family got to see it.
GH: When did you first start coming to UW matches?
JM: I think I first started coming around the age of fourteen or fifteen. I had gone to the Jim McLaughlin camp and really looked up to the program. Then when I came here I had favorite players that I had loved to watch. I got asked once if I could play anywhere, where I would play and UW was my first answer. Coming here with the environment, this arena, and the coaching staff is amazing. I think growing up here definitely made a huge impact on my excitement to play and the desire to be here.
GH: Did you have favorite players at UW?
JM: Bianca Roland was my favorite player ever because she just had so much physicality, and every time she hit a slide I lost it. I definitely looked up to Tama (Miyashiro) when she was here. I started coming after Courtney (Thompson), but obviously Courtney is Courtney and you know who she is. My sister was a setter when she was playing so Courtney was a known name. But I think Tama, and even Jo (Orlandini) were my two favorites. Because I was such a late recruit, I was watching Jo as a fan. With those two, I watched them before practice and I would try and figure out what they were doing.
GH: What clinched the decision to walk on at UW?
JM: That was a really interesting process. My senior year was one of the weirdest but coolest years I’ve ever had. I was injured and wasn’t playing volleyball. Murph [Volunteer Assistant Tom Murphy] called me after a practice that I was sitting at and told me [former assistant] Keno had talked to him and this program was interested in having me walk on. I had no idea where this came from. We started talking to them, but I was in rehab and at that point I still couldn’t straighten my knee or play. But I wanted to play so I played on a kind of non-functioning knee. I asked them to come watch me at a tournament that was actually in this arena the week after I met with them. They asked me to walk on. I was technically already accepted to Wazzu, so I was going to be a Coug like the rest of my family. UW volleyball was the exception to every Coug rule that there is. It just so happened to work out that way.
GH: So you went against a family of Cougars?
JM: It’s a pretty intense family. You can find some good blackmail pictures of me in full on Cougar gear. I was that crazy kid at spirit days going all out. But this was the only Husky grab-on that I had and the one thing I wanted more than anything. It just happened to work out that way.
GH: Are you more connected this year in the week to week game planning and training?
JM: Yeah, I’m definitely a lot more focused just because last year I was so focused on my knee. I’d go in for film and I’d watch, and I’d know things, and I’d understand what we were doing. But I couldn’t really do much about it, so this year I’m definitely more on top of things, and really trying to stay connected with everything we’re doing, especially week to week. I talk to Jo a lot about what she looks at and what we can do as a defense, and I think it’s almost easier now because I have some kind of physical connection to what we’re doing. I think getting into everything, and changing things every week is the fun of it. It’s like a puzzle.
GH: Talk about the rehab process.
JM: I tore my ACL and some other stuff in October of 2011, and wasn’t physically allowed to play until December of 2012, so I wasn’t really healed when they asked me to come here. [Athletic Trainer] Mike Dillon worked with me a lot, and we tried for a month to fix the knee I already had. He decided it wasn’t going to fix itself, so we got another surgery, and I spent the next four or five months in that room with Mike just working it out. You have to love Michael; he did a great job with me. I don’t feel much pain in it and it works like my other one, so I owe a lot to his help.
GH: When did you first start playing volleyball?
JM: My sister was a setter, and she got asked by the teachers at her school to play. We have a very athletic family; we’ve always been into sports. I always went to all of her tournaments and watched my sister play volleyball. I always wanted to get into the serving line, always wanted to dig. My sister would take me out into the backyard and would literally hit the ball as hard as she could at me. At that point I thought it was really hard, but now I can kind of dig a ball. I started playing club at U-13 and I played where my sister played. The Sudden Impact family has always been a part of my family—we have that connection. I loved the people, so I started playing there and never quit.
GH: Are you living with any teammates?
JM: Yeah, I’m living with Jo and Ky (Muñoz) in a place that we call the Coliseum. We’re the gladiators of the Coliseum.
GH: Did that take hold on the Italy trip? What was your favorite part of the trip?
JM: I would say the Trevi Fountain was definitely a highlight. Jo and I had a lot of fun there. I think Maribor was the surprise of the trip. We were spending three days there and we were like, “What’s Maribor?” But we got there and thought it was awesome. But the Trevi Fountain was the classic tourist spot that was really enjoyable.
GH: What do you think are your greatest strengths as a player and what needs improving?
JM: I think my strength is that I love to learn. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and I’ve always found coaching and teaching very interesting because of the learning process. I think something that’s really important is the want to get better and the want to learn. I’m a very enthusiastic person and I’m often outgoing, trying to bring a lot of energy. Even if I don’t get a chance on the court, I’ll be over here trying to keep people excited every play, get the high fives going, and pump us up. I think the biggest thing I need to work on is my consistency and my ability to not overthink everything. I’m a very anxious person, and my brain tends to keep going. I just have to calm down and do things that I know are right. A lot of the mental aspects are what I’m working on right now.
GH: What interests you about being a teacher?
JM: It’s something I’ve always been interested in, mostly high school teaching. I’m planning on majoring in mathematics and hopefully with the extra year I have I might double major in communications. Being a high school math teacher has always been something I’ve been interested in. I’ve had a lot of good math teachers who have inspired me to do that. But I think communications is something I’ve always secretly wanted to do, like broadcasting and things like that. But that teacher and coaching thing is something that I enjoy and find comfort in.