PORT MOODY — The Province
Alessandra Gentile hasn’t gotten around to getting her driver’s license yet.
“I don’t have my ‘N’ yet, so my mom’s been driving me,” the standout right side hitter and setter says with laugh. “You could say I’m a bit of a nervous Nelly.”
Yet when it comes to her life as a student-athlete, there is more than enough drive in the 5-foot-10 senior from Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Secondary, enough in fact that in a poll conducted by the coaches of B.C.’s CIS volleyball-playing schools, Gentile was the unanimous choice as The Province’s 2012 Player of the Year.
(See the full list: The Super 15 below, plus The Province’s past Players of the Year)
And if you ask UBC Thunderbirds’ head coach Doug Reimer, the lucky coach who was able to win the recruiting battle to land her services for the next five seasons, what kind of automobile he would compare her to, he would in all likelihood say sports utility.
Or should that be versatility?
In leading her Kodiaks to silver at the B.C. high school Quad A championship tournament just under two weeks ago in Port Coquitlam, Gentile wrapped up her high school career as a dominant attacking right-side hitter.
But Reimer, who has led the ‘Birds to the past five CIS national titles, is filled with a kind of confident excitement that Gentile’s deep and complete skill set will allow her to make the transition to that of setter, volleyball’s version of the quarterback.
“The first thing is, she is a very dynamic player and if you were recruiting her just as a hitter, she would be a good recruit,” explains Reimer. “But where I really see her potential down the road, is as a setter. I think she has wanted to set for a while, but when you’re such a good hitter, it’s like being a great striker. You don’t take players like that out of their positions even if they can do something else. On most of the team’s she’s played on, they have needed her offence.”
Indeed, hers is the kind of versatility that lends itself to comparisons with other sports, even with basketball, where the bigger the point guard you can find the better, so long as you are not sacrificing other parts of the job description like quickness passing and vision.
Gentile? As far as making the switch, she’s all in.
Already expertly tutored by longtime coach Alex Seres, and gaining extra reps under the watch of Dan Huzar at Volleyball Canada’s Centre of Excellence in North Vancouver, she welcomes the chance to be a CIS rookie and to learn within the championship atmosphere Reimer has turned into a dynasty.
“I love them both, but I think that letting go of hitting and becoming more of a setter will allow me to become more of myself on the court,” Gentile explains. “It’s going to allow me to get my flow going. I am definitely still green as a setter but there is a lot Doug can teach me.”
Let Reimer get a little creative as Gentile works her way into the lineup over the next few seasons, and he is sure to find her some sets where she will be able to contribute on both fronts.
“The full intention is she is coming in to be trained as a setter,” says Reimer. “That is our plan and that is her goal. It’s pretty clear. But there is that potential there to run a system where she is hitting as well.”
And everything else about joining a team which has a target on its collective back every time its takes to the court? Gentile embraces it.
“I definitely welcome a challenge and they are the level of excellence I want to achieve,” explains Gentile, who has tackled every math and science course she could find at Heritage Woods, with a definite soft spot for her Biology 12 class.
“Volleyball is a huge part of my life. It is my life. And it’s taught me the lessons I apply to school and life, like how to push myself and how to prepare.”
The Province’s Best of B.C.
Senior Girls Super 15 Class of 2013
(height, position, school, post-secondary destination)
- Alessandra Gentile (5-10 setter, right side, Port Moody-Heritage Woods, UBC) — Incredibly strong and versatile athlete. Imposing on both sides of the ball at the net. Quickly becoming high-level setter.
- Rowyn Neufeld (5-11 outside, Richmond Christian, Trinity Western) — Great jumper and hits with good pace. Noted as a very physical athlete.
- Nicola Laniuk (6-3 middle, North Delta-Seaquam, undecided) — Big and physical. Played in past two B.C. Triple A finals, winning gold in 2011. Played with junior nats this past summer.
- Nicole Cornwall (5-9 setter, right side, Coquitlam-Dr. Charles Best, Trinity Western) — She is an all-round talent. Possesses an explosive arm. Very soft touch on the ball.
- Rachel Windhorst (5-9 outside, Surrey Christian, St. Mary’s) — Very aggressive in her mindset, she is an outside hitter capable of attacking with great range.
- Katie Devaney (6-1 middle, Port Coquitlam-Terry Fox, Trinity Western) — Also a basketball standout, she is physically dominant and her skills package is constantly improving.
- Tessa Davis (6-0 middle, Surrey-Earl Marriott, undecided) — Versatility is a huge plus. A strong hitter who can play both middle and outside positions.
- Michelle Jaksuk (6-2 outside, Gibsons-Elphinstone, undecided) — Big hops. Leaping ability allows her to have dominating games at the net.
- Katrina Tolentino (6-0 outside, Richmond-R.A. McMath, undecided) — Super quick and dynanmic. Jumps well and is a good attacker out of the middle.
- Emma Jennings (6-0 outside, Port Moody-Heritage Woods, undecided) — Has shown her versatility and overall feel for game by making the transition from middle to outside.
- Daralyn Schepp (5-11 outside, Vernon-Kalamalka, undecided) — Has book-end versatility in attack, and she loves to attack. Equally adept from right and left sides.
- Emma Robinson (5-9 setter, South Delta, undecided) — Consistent, steady, a calming influence. She is coming off a B.C. title and was named the Quad A MVP.
- Layla Balooch (6-2 middle, Burnaby South, undecided) — Hard worker with the ability to hit with velocity. Can play the middle or on the right side.
- Kelsi Taron (5-6 setter, Kelowna Christian, undecided) — Very fast and athletic with her sets, she is back to top of her game after missing Grade 11 season to injury.
- Jenna Pearce (5-9 outside, Parksville-Ballenas, Vancouver Island) — Strong passing skills help set her apart, and she brings excellent back row skills to the court.(as voted on by the head coaches of B.C.’s CIS women’s volleyball programs)
THE PROVINCE’S HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
(Who’s won the Province’s annual awards since their 2009 inception)
GIRLS — Emily Oxland (North Vancouver-Handsworth, UBC Okanagan)
BOYS — Tyler Heppell (Langley Christian, Trinity Western)
GIRLS — Katy Klomps (Surrey Christian, UBC Okanagan), Krista Hogewonig (Surrey Christian, Fraser Valley)
BOYS — Brad Gunter (Courtenay-G.P. Vanier, Thompson Rivers)
GIRLS — Rosie Schlagintweit (Abbotsford-Yale, UBC)
BOYS — Nick Del Bianco (Surrey-Fleetwood Park, Trinity Western)