QUINCY -- The last thing Kristen Gengenbacher expected during a Christmas party was to learn she was an All-American.
Yet, in the middle of a gathering for the University of San Diego women's volleyball team at the home of Toreros coach Jennifer Petrie, it was revealed the Gengenbacher, a 5-foot-9 senior setter, had been named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American third team.
"(Petrie) just kind of announced it at the end of the party," said Gengenbacher, a Quincy Notre Dame graduate. "I was pretty taken aback."
The reality of what she had accomplished didn't really sink in until attending the All-American banquet Friday in Kansas City, the site of the NCAA Division I final four.
"The moment when I was like, ‘Wow, I feel so honored,' was when I got my trophy at the awards ceremony," Gengenbacher said. "Just to see my name and my school's name on a trophy that says ‘All-American,' that was a really special moment for me."
To top it off, her sister and brother-in-law, Karlee and Regan Bruenger, were there to celebrate with her.
"It was really cool to have them share that with me," Gengenbacher said.
Gengenbacher finished her senior season ranked 11th in the nation and first in the West Coast Conference with 11.46 assists per set. She directed an offense that averaged 14.92 kills per set, the fifth-best rate in the nation. She also had 13 double-doubles, averaging 2.69 digs per set, second best on the team.
Gengenbacher finished her collegiate career with 3,729 assists, the third most in program history.
She led the Toreros to their first WCC championship since 2013 and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. She was named the WCC Player of the Year and to the All-Pacific South Region Team. She also was named to the WCC All-Academic team and the CoSIDA All-District Academic team.
USD finished with a 25-5 record after a five-set loss to USC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"This season was such a great season to end my career at USD on," Gengenbacher said. "We left everything out there in the second round. Even though we lost in the second round, we can't hang our heads because we literally fought all the way until the end. That's the epitome of our season. We fought.
"A lot of memories packed into a short couple of months, but I wouldn't trade anything."
Scheduled to graduate in May with a double major in communication studies and theology and religious studies, Gengenbacher is weighing her options regarding her future. One is to play beach volleyball with her fifth year of eligibility while working on a master's degree. Pursuing a professional volleyball career and working toward a spot on the U.S. national team is another.
"I know that I want to play," Gengenbacher said. "Even if I do decide to play beach volleyball and get my master's, after I get my master's, I want to go play professionally. A professional career is definitely in my future. The question is when and where."