UW star—and nation’s leading blocker—keeps busy while waiting for a final decision on her appeal for one more year.
“Can’t talk now, have practice tonight.”
“Sorry I missed you, working out at the gym.”
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Had Washington’s 6-6 middle blocker started playing professionally? Or was she still fighting for one more year of eligibility?
“Call me in a couple minutes; I have a match tonight”
We finally connected, and learned that Gil was coaching, not playing. For the past several weeks, she’s been the head JV coach at Archbishop Mitty High School in the Bay Area, her alma mater.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s definitely different.”
All things considered, Gil would rather be in Seattle, getting ready for one final season with Washington. After a star-crossed college career, she still holds out hope for one more shot.
“I just love the game so much,” she says.
Back in 2008, Gil was a marquee recruit for UCLA. She was voted Freshman of the Year, and seemed poised to be a major part of a star-studded team.
But as Gil tells it, UCLA was not a great fit. She was a strong student, and felt that the Bruins’ practice and training schedules prevented her from taking classes in her major. At the end of her sophomore year, she asked for—and was granted—a release to leave the school. Shortly thereafter, when star setter Lauren Cook (daughter of Nebraska coach John Cook) also left the school, head coach Andy Banachowski announced his retirement after 43 years.
Gil transferred to Washington, but conference rules forced her to sit out her junior season. A year later, as she prepared for the 2011 season, a congenital weakness in her left knee wore a hole in her cartilage, and major surgery forced her to miss a second straight year.
By 2012, Gil was raring to go. After a year of intense rehab, she was strong enough to lead the entire nation in blocks per set, combining with Kylin Muñoz to form one of the most imposing defensive fronts in volleyball. But it was tougher than most people realized.
“I played in pain,” she admits. “It got pretty bad. To where I had to get a couple of cortisone shots.”
Why put herself through so much discomfort?
“My personality is not the type to sit out if you’re injured, if you’re in a little bit of pain,” she says.” I’m gonna fight through it. And that’s what I wanted to do, is just fight through it. I was tired of sitting out. I sat out for two years. I didn’t want to sit out any more. And I didn’t want to let my team down. I didn’t want to not be able to play with the girls one last time, just in case this was my last year.”
Just in case? Turns out, Gil and her family believe her unique circumstances—including transferring from UCLA for academic, not athletic, reasons—should not have resulted in that loss of eligibility her junior year. It’s a long shot, though a few other athletes have made similar arguments in other sports.
“We’re still in the process of appealing,” she says. “So, it hasn’t even come to a decision yet. We’re still waiting to hear back.”
Last week, Gil was cleared to begin a new round of physical therapy. In a few weeks, she plans to resume lifting weights and, after that, speed work. When her playing days do end someday, she hopes to try coaching full time.
And instructing the JV boys at Mitty has opened her eyes to what coaches go through.
“Oh, my god! It’s completely different. It’s like crazy, ‘cause you can see everything they’re doing wrong. But they can’t see it.”
“It’s a way different perspective. “