Senior Spotlight: Vanessa Gailius

By Maarten Van-Genabeek
Published: May 2010

Vanessa Gailius is an elite athlete among the seniors soon to graduate this year. During her four-year career at Newton South, she has accumulated a plethora of athletic accolades and honors.

Whether it be as member of the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team or as a part of the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team, Gailius has built her legacy on the court.

Her renown, however, comes from her work as the captain and setter of South’s Volleyball team.

“Since her sophomore year, [Gailius] has been a cornerstone of the Volleyball team, Head Volleyball Coach Todd Elwell said.

A two-sport athlete in her first three years at South, Gailius opted to pursue her passion for volleyball by playing on the SMASH travel volleyball team, rather than serving her post as the captain of the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team this winter.

During her freshman, sophomore, and junior years, however, Gailius played for the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team

“I never thought I would love another sport more than basketball, but after the first day of volleyball tryouts, I could not wait to go back the next day, Gailius said. 

It took only two years for Gailius to ascend the ranks and find a spot on varsity, an accomplishment Elwell attributes to her mental skills as much as her physical ability.

“It’s amazing how quickly she developed, he said. “Part of it was her ability to focus and take in information and then utilize it right away.

From the beginning of her varsity stint, Elwell could tell that Gailius had the potential to develop into an integral part of the team. “I knew she would be efficient [when I promoted her]. I knew that she wouldn’t beat herself or allow the team to beat itself, he said.

She was an immediate influence to the team, as it made the state tournament only to lose in the first round.

Gailius, not satisfied with the early exit from the tournament, joined SMASH to improve her game during the winter. “Playing for SMASH has been one of the best experiences of my athletic career because it has opened so many doors for me, Gailius said.

Through the travel team, Gailius developed into a nationally known volleyball player. Last July, Junior Olympic club Latitude 42 invited her onto the team because of SMASH’s recommendation.

In the Junior Olympics, Gailius played with, and competed against, the top athletes in the sport. She propelled herself from merely a new player to a nationally recognized one in a matter of years.

Her junior and senior seasons, Gailius earned Dual County League All-Star honors, and received the 110 Percent award each year.

The captain of the Volleyball team this winter, Gailius’ teammates honored her with the team’s Most Valuable Player award.

“She’s a very positive person. I feel like she was very good at getting us to work together as a team, junior Phoebe Huth said.

According to the coach, Gailius maintained the same mental focus and emotional resiliency throughout each match, regardless of the circumstances.

While many would attribute her success to talent, hard work, and a positive attitude, Gailius considers her career so far a product of her opportunities to play.

“[I] would have never gotten to the place I am in today without the opportunities Coach Elwell gave me and the opportunity that the SMASH club program gave me, she said. “I just needed that chance to prove to myself that I could really go somewhere with volleyball.

Gailius has done more than enough to prove her worth to the Girls’ Volleyball program. She has been a major reason for the team’s continual progression and recent success.

From a first-round defeat in her sophomore year to semifinal appearances her junior and senior years, Gailius has led the team from the brink of success to a perennial contender in the Dual County League.

Gailius will look to continue her already formidable volleyball career as a walk-on for Loyola College as South’s first female volleyball player to compete at the Division-I collegiate level in Elwell’s five year stint as head coach.

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