Set from the start
Published 8:41 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015
Former Nansemond-Suffolk Academy girls’ volleyball star Brooks Gillerlain has wasted no time in earning acclaim during her freshman season at Randolph College.
“She has been an impact right away for us,” WildCats coach Kara Matthews said. “She has a very competitive mindset which is something, as a coach, that you look for in a setter, so she’s used that to really put herself in a great position for us.”
Gillerlain said it is pretty awesome to have earned a starting spot as a freshman.
Email newsletter signup
“Honestly, it’s crazy,” she said. “I did not think that that would be happening, especially so soon.”
She expected to get some playing time this year, but not this much.
“She actually began as a starting setter,” Matthews said. “I started her right off the bat just because I saw her working hard and earning that spot.”
Nine of the 16 players on the team this year are freshmen, but the other designated setter on the roster is a senior, Andrea Mewhinney.
Gillerlain and Mewhinney have frequently shared the setter role in Matthews’ lineup, which includes a front row setter and a back row setter.
At 5 feet, 5 inches, Gillerlain is two inches shorter than Mewhinney and has less experience with blocking at the college level, so the former Lady Saints player is mostly restricted to the back row, except on some occasions where she has played entire games.
As it turns out, Matthews has a good reason to use Gillerlain on the back row that has nothing to do with her offensive contributions.
“She’s also really strong on defense,” Matthews said, noting Gillerlain is one of the team’s fastest defenders. “She has quick hands, which makes it really hard for other hitters to read her.”
While senior defensive specialist Elisabeth Price leads the WildCats with 276 digs, Gillerlain has the second-most with 186.
On offense, Gillerlain leads Randolph with 461 assists, 300 more than her nearest teammate.
Matthews said that total is a solid showing for Gillerlain, definitely as a freshman and especially since she is splitting time with Mewhinney in certain games.
Gillerlain said the experience of playing at the college level has been different for her, “but the adjustment just kind of naturally happened.”
“I’m just not used to having brand new people with me,” she added.
But she was prepared well during her time at NSA for the transition to college volleyball.
“Luckily, I came from coach (Robyn) Ross, who obviously everyone knows is very tough, especially in the conditioning aspect and mental aspect,” Gillerlain said.
Ross has taken the Lady Saints to see Gillerlain play and said, “She was doing a great job of running her team’s offense and seemed to have stepped into that role.”
Noting it is hard playing when you are a freshman, Ross said, “The setter is supposed to be kind of the leader of the team. That’s partly why I’ve never had a young setter.”
That Gillerlain is handling the responsibility so well “speaks a lot to how strong of a player and how strong mentally she is,” Ross said.