This was not what Jessie Genger envisioned a little more than two years ago. Selecting the right college to continue her volleyball career was supposed to be the hard part. The success that was expected to follow simply hinged on her athletic ability and work ethic, two traits that served the 5-foot-11 outside/right side hitter well during her days at Kentwood High.
Yet, here she is, two years later, and Genger is now making a fresh start.
“I think that everything happens for a reason,” said Genger, now 20. “I definitely think back to when I was in high school and I definitely didn’t picture my college career being like this.”
“This” has proven to be a whirlwind of life-changing decisions for the 2009 Kentwood High graduate. It all began in the spring of Genger’s senior year, when she waffled between playing volleyball or basketball at the college level. A standout and first-team All-South Puget Sound League selection in both sports, Genger could have chosen either as her college endeavor. In March of 2009, when most standout athletes already had made a decision where to play in college, Genger finally landed on Boise State University, where she planned on continuing her volleyball career.
That plan, however, was short lived.
By June, the coaching staff at Boise State, the same one that had recruited Genger to play on scholarship, had undergone a major upheaval.
“One of their assistants quit, then another one quit, and the head coach quit,” said Genger, who chose the Broncos ahead of Lewis & Clark State, Western Washington University and Colorado State among others. “I could have stayed at Boise State, but they didn’t even have a coach hired when I decided to change (schools). I was left in limbo.”
Instead of remaining in limbo and waiting for Boise State to make a decision, Genger made one of her own, deciding to head to Gonzaga University before ever stepping foot onto the Idaho campus.
Though the decision felt right at the time, Genger slowly learned she was not fit to be a Bulldog, either.
“It was (an eye-opener). In high school, I was always on the same page as my coaches and teammates,” said Genger, who led the Conquerors to four straight SPSL North titles and a succession of state trophies. “When I went to Gonzaga, it was a different case. It’s hard when you have a goal in mind that you want to reach, but you don’t share it with anybody else.”
No doubt, Genger certainly did her part. In two years at Gonzaga, the former Kentwood star and 2008 Kent Reporter Female Athlete of the Year, appeared in 43 matches and made 21 starts. She combined to average 1.53 kills, 0.49 digs and 0.34 blocks per set while playing both outside and right side hitter.
Despite quickly becoming one of Gonzaga’s top players during her freshman and sophomore seasons, Genger wanted more. Specifically, she wanted to feel the same passion for the game at Gonzaga that she delivered on a nightly basis at Kentwood.
That passion, for a spell, was lost.
“There’s a lot more involved in college than high school. It’s different. It’s not worse, it’s just different,” said Genger, who was as dominant at the net on the volleyball floor in high school as she was with her soft 3-point shot on the basketball court. “I had a good experience at Gonzaga, and I think it helped me a lot. But I just didn’t enjoy myself.”
Genger’s passion for the game has changed this summer as has her direction. After two years at Gonzaga, Genger recently decided to take her talent to Sacramento State University, where she will resume her college career on scholarship.
Despite this being Genger’s third college choice in less than three years, the Kentwood High product remains confident in her decision.
A good part of that confidence stems from a recent trip Genger made down to the Sacramento State campus.
“I am really excited about it,” she said. “I got to spend two days down there with the girls and the coaches. I got to watch practice and it reminded me of how I used to feel when I played. After this past year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go play anymore.”
The Hornets are just as excited to have Genger on board, too.
“Jessie is a talented player that can play any position on the front row,” said Sacramento State coach Ruben Volta. “She played middle in club, and on both the left and right sides at Gonzaga. Her versatility will help us and I look forward to coaching her for two years.”
Playing two more years is exactly what Genger is looking forward to. Albeit, of course, with the same passion and enthusiasm she showed just a few years ago at Kentwood.
“I don’t have dreams of going on to play overseas and becoming a professional player,” she said. “I just want to enjoy my last two years of playing the game I enjoyed playing my entire life, other than my last two.
“Then I will be done. And I am fine with that.”