Women's College Volleyball

Gengenbacher to play pro volleyball in Greece

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 4, 2019 12:10 am Updated: Aug. 5, 2019 1:05 am

QUINCY -- As Kristen Gengenbacher wrapped up her final year of collegiate eligibility playing beach volleyball at the University of Washington, she was forced to face the same question every college graduate does.

What's next?

"I knew I wasn't quite done playing," she said.

Given time to reflect on an All-American indoor volleyball career at the University of San Diego and heed the advice family, friends and coaches, the Quincy Notre Dame graduate came to what she believes is the right decision.

"I knew I would regret it if I didn't try to play pro, even for a year," Gengenbacher said.

So off to Greece she goes.

Gengenbacher, a 5-foot-9 setter, has signed a contract with AOF Porfyras, a club team located in Piraeus, Greece, which is a suburb of Athens. Porfyras competes in A1 Ethniki, which is the Greek 1st Tier in the Hellenic Volleyball Federation.

It means the three-sport standout at QND who was the 2014 Herald-Whig Player of the Year in girls basketball can officially be called a professional athlete.

"That's crazy," Gengenbacher said with a laugh and a smile. "That's weird, but I'm super excited about."

It's going to open doors to new experiences as well.

Gengenbacher has traveled internationally throughout her volleyball career, playing in Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Mexico and El Salvador, but this will be her first time in Greece.

"I'm definitely looking forward to the volleyball and getting back in the gym and playing the sport that I love," Gengenbacher said. "But I'm excited to immerse myself in a different culture and hopefully get to travel a little bit.

"I'm excited to absorb more and learn more about the world and how people live."

Gengenbacher, who leaves for Greece at the end of August, also will help coach a youth team of 10- to 12-year-old girls.

"It's a good opportunity," Gengenbacher said.

But it is one that comes with minor drawbacks. Gengenbacher will not be home for Christmas, nor will she be able to plan a quick weekend trip home when the urge strikes.

But she is aware others are planning to visit her in Greece.

"My parents are already signing up for a passport," she said.

She hopes they will get to see her at the top of her game.

Gengenbacher was named a third-team All-American after her senior season at San Diego in the fall of 2017. She 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.

She 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. With a fifth-year of eligibility available in another sport as a graduate student, Gengenbacher played beach volleyball last year at Washington. It made her appreciate the indoor game even more.

"I miss setting the ball and running the offense," Gengenbacher said. "Beach is such an individualized sport. That's not something I realized until I played it. Indoor is much more of a team sport. I missed that. I missed being on the court with five other people and being able to rely on them.

"I didn't realize how much I loved indoor until I played beach."