Culver High standout will join Lutes' volleyball team

by: JEFF WILSON/THE PIONEER - Coaches Nick and Randi Viggiano join Gabrielle Alley and her parents Tammy and J.D. during Thursday night's Honors Convocation at Culver High School.When it came down to it, Gabrielle Alley took matters into her own hands.

With a solid list of colleges and universities interested in the Culver multi-sports star, she took the initiative and it paid off in the form of an athletic scholarship to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash.

The Culver standout, who helped the Bulldogs to the Class 2A state volleyball title in 2012, emailed PLU coach Kevin Aoki to express her interest in the school and program. Aoki returned that interest by showing up at some club events that Alley was playing in. After a few meetings, he told her that if she wanted to attend PLU, and was accepted into the school, he would want her on his team.

“I got a couple of different offers, but Pacific Lutheran was my favorite school,” Alley said. “I really liked the coaching and the whole aspect there. So that’s where I decided to go.”

Alley had many choices for college, among them Puget Sound University in Tacoma, Wash., Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., and George Fox in Newberg.

But after taking a tour of PLU, Alley knew almost immediately it was the right place for her.

“I loved the atmosphere. I’ve gone on probably over 12 campus tours, and I just loved the feel of it,” Alley said. “People said that once you get on there you’ll know, and I just kind of knew.”

Alley comes off an outstanding high school career. As well as being part of the 2012 volleyball team to win the state crown, she was named to the first team all-state team in 2013 and was second team all-state in 2012.

But volleyball is her chosen sport and she said she is ready to move to the next level. Alley said she was impressed with Aoki and his coaching philosophy. And the fact that the Lutes are one of premier Division III programs in the country didn’t hurt.

The Lutes have a rich volleyball history, having won the Northwest Conference title this year with a 15-1 record. The Lutes ended the 2014 season with a 19-6 overall mark and were ranked 15th in the nation entering the NCAA Division II playoffs.

PLU lost to Augsburg College 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs.

Aoki has told her playing time is there to go get and he will not hold her back just because she is an incoming freshman. If she earns court time in her first year, she will see it.

“That is a promising thing,” Alley said. “As long as I earn a spot, he wants the best person out there."

Alley will be in Tacoma later this summer to participate in a PLU kids camp and will talk more in depth with Aoki about positions and playing time. There will also be some open gym time with teammates, which will give her a better feel for what is in store.

An outside hitter for the Bulldogs, Alley is projected as an all-around player for the Lutes. She can do it all, but knows she will have to log some practice time under Aoki before she knows exactly where on the floor she will play.

But she said anywhere is fine with her.

Alley plans to major in physical therapy at PLU.

“It’s a great fit academically and it’s a great fit for her because it’s a successful program,” Culver volleyball coach Randi Viggiano said. “(Aoki) is a coach that is well spoken of in the volleyball community and obviously, he gets great results.”

Viggiano has been Alley’s only volleyball coach since she was in eighth grade. She has seen her grow not only as a player, but as a student and a person.

“I’m really excited to watch her thrive under a different coaching style,” Viggiano said. “I think that is really important for athletes to get those different perspectives. I think it’s a great fit for her. I’m excited for her.”

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