Gabrielle den Boer admits she wasn’t exactly on board with going to Concordia University even though she was quite close to the person trying to recruit her. Let’s just say it wasn’t a slam dunk – or spike in this case – of a decision for the talented volleyball player.
Den Boer’s older sister, Erica, played volleyball for four years at Concordia and wanted her younger sisters to follow in her footsteps. But taking that first step was going to take more than a nudge.
“She was trying to get me to go here and I was like there is no way I am going to this school,” den Boer says with a smile. “It was too close to home and I wanted to go somewhere further away.”
But visiting the campus, meeting the coaches and players, and seeing what incredible advantages, both academically and athletically, Concordia had to offer – just around the corner – she quickly had a change of heart. Anyway, you should always listen to your older sister.
“It is such a gorgeous campus and I fell in love with the coaching staff,” she says, turning serious for a moment. “I got to meet some of the other players who were coming here and we all got along really well and I just fell in love with the whole atmosphere. I also like that it’s a Christian school. That was important to me, too.”
Den Boer played volleyball all four years at Canton High School and the Chiefs were always competitive in a very tough league.
“I come from a volleyball family so it’s the only sport I ever played seriously,” she said. “My dad, my sisters, my cousins all played volleyball so that’s what got me into it. I just fell in love with it and playing with my best friends and I’ve been close with all the people I have played with over the years.”
Den Boer, who is majoring in nursing and is the daughter of Harrie and Sandra den Boer of Canton, is in her second year at Concordia. “Things are going great,” she says. “I love it here.”
While she is one of the big hitters at the net for the Concordia volleyball team, the junior isn’t a one-trick Cardinal – she is a complete player and outstanding athlete who proved her all-around skills last week in a win over visiting Rochester University.
In the 3-2 win over the Warriors on Wednesday, den Boer was delivering plenty of spikes and tips at the net but where she really dominated play was in the back row. She made several big plays in the back at crucial times to help volley the Cardinals to an impressive win over a strong team.
“Yeah, (Wednesday’s) game was pretty typical of how things have been going this season,” she says. “There have been a lot of back and forth games where you have to stay mentally tough throughout the game. It’s pretty exciting.”
Against Rochester, the Cardinals fell behind but came back to earn the win.
“There is some pressure and urgency when you fall behind,” says den Boer, who is an outside hitter for the Cardinals. “But we always remain confident and stay calm when the pressure builds. A lot of our players are good in high-pressure situations especially with some of the careers they are going into. We don’t look at it as we need to get 25 points. We just need to get the next point.”
Den Boer laughs when asked about the personality of the Cardinals.
“We are a bunch of goofballs,” she says. “It works out well on the court because we can cheer each other up if someone gets down. We are all best friends so we know how to pick each other up.”
Den Boer says the team goal is to get to the conference tournament this year. “We also have had the best team GPA the past couple of years so we want to get that again as well,” she says.
As a freshman, den Boer appeared in 29 matches and recorded 182 kills (third on the team), 112 digs, and 26 blocks (also third on the team). Last season as a sophomore, she played in 24 matches, leading the team in kills with 179 kills along with 101 digs and 27 blocks (third on the team).
Danielle Cook, who was an assistant coach during den Boer’s freshman season, is in her second season as the head coach of the Cardinals. She has a lot of confidence in No. 5.
“Gab is a very athletic player and we love to have her on the court,” Cook said. “She is playing in a position that she is not used to but has been doing a great job in the middle for us. She’s also a great leader on the court and in other ways.”