Columbus East senior Gabby Dean makes her presence felt each time she steps onto the volleyball court.
Dean’s 6 foot-4 stature can be intimidating for the opponent when they’re at the net, and she was nearly automatic when going up for a kill or a block. She capped off her career with the Olympians by winning the sectional crown.
As a result, Dean has been named The Republic Volleyball Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Volleyball has been in Dean’s blood since her early childhood. She got her start in PAAL and FFY volleyball in kindergarten.
Dean’s father Andy coached volleyball at Jennings County and was able to help Gabby get started with the basics of the sport. She started playing club volleyball in fourth grade, and it was then when she realized she had lots of potential with volleyball.
Dean recalled back in the fourth grade that she wanted to serve overhand like the rest of girls, but couldn’t do it. She said she spent many hours crafting her serve.
Dean also excelled in another sport growing up — basketball. She said she didn’t want to limit herself to only one sport when she was younger. While she enjoyed playing both volleyball and basketball in elementary and middle school and her first two years of high school, it seemed close to inevitable Dean would have to give up one of those sports. After her sophomore year, she made the decision to pursue volleyball. Dean mentioned that period in fourth grade helped lead her to where she is today.
“I wanted to overhand serve like the rest of the kids, so I was going out of my house on my own and practicing serving,” Dean said. “It was instantly a click of, ‘I want to be good at this.’ I wanted to push myself to get better.
“I always grew up playing basketball and volleyball. I loved playing basketball for a long time, too, but I think ever since I started playing volleyball, I instantly had to push and had to get better at it,” she added. “I wanted to push myself more in volleyball and loved it more than I did necessarily of basketball and other sports I played growing up.”
Volleyball has consumed Dean’s life the past few years. In the offseason, she said she practices around nine hours a week, plus any additional private lessons to work on her individual skills. She also mentioned spending a couple hours a day doing weights, yoga and strength and conditioning. Add in her travel time to tournaments and playing up to four matches a day on the weekends, and it’s plenty of reps for Dean.
Primarily as a middle hitter for East during her career, Dean led the team this season with 82 blocks and added 303 kills, 42 digs and 22 aces.
Dean had more opportunities in serving this year. In the past, she hasn’t been the serving because the libero usually subbed in for her. East coach Ellyn McIntosh switched it up this year for Dean to play a rotation in the back row.
“She gets kills that other kids can’t. She helps us blocking-wise, just being a big presence in the front row,” McIntosh said. “She can put a ball away pretty much anywhere along the net that we need her too. Defensively, her blocking helps us. We were having her serve for us, which helped us out. She has a pretty aggressive serve.”
Dean’s volleyball career isn’t over yet. She’ll head to Illinois to play for the Fighting Illini next year. She learned many things from her time with the Olympians that she will take with her to college.
“We’ve had a lot of amazing players and coaches come through here and a lot of change due to COVID. Embracing change will be a big part,” Dean said. “I also think that playing with my friends for the last time because you never really know when the last time you’re going to play is, so play your heart out every day. I think the culture of Columbus East volleyball the past four years has been amazing and has been great to play with, so I’ll always remember that.”
McIntosh will have some big shoes to fill for next season.
“Honestly, having a person that big on our team and walking in somewhere, she is intimidating right off the bat, and we don’t have anyone else with that height,” McIntosh said. “Having someone that we can get the ball to, and it would almost automatically be a kill. She was that kind of person for us this year. Her attitude and what people expected from her, we’ll miss that, as well.”
Dean also added that she will miss playing with her teammates that she’s played with over the past four years.
“I’ve loved everyone that I’ve gotten a chance to play with,” she said. “Not playing with them will definitely be difficult going throughout the years.”
The Republic All-Area Volleyball team:
Gabby Dean, Columbus East: The senior led the Olympians with 82 blocks and added 303 kills, 42 digs and 22 aces.
Kenzie Foster, Columbus East: The senior led the Olympians with 357 digs and had 74 assists and 28 aces.
Maddie Cline, Columbus East: The senior led the Olympians with 334 kills and added 15 blocks, 246 digs and 24 aces.
Erin Williams, Columbus East: The senior led the Olympians with 861 assists and 35 aces and had 37 kills, 21 blocks and 214 digs.
Chloe Gilley, Columbus East: The junior recorded 33 assists, 243 digs and 29 aces.
Kenze Bostic, Hauser: The junior led the Jets with 390 kills and 104 blocks and added 186 digs and 52 aces.
Adrianna Musillami, Hauser: The junior led the Jets with 944 assists and had 26 kills, 315 digs and 44 aces.
Karen Dutro, Columbus North: The freshman led the Bull Dogs with 218 kills and 185 blocks and added 76 digs and 25 aces.
Emily Stair, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 413 digs and 34 aces and had 22 assists.
Megan Vogel, Jennings County: The senior led the Panthers with 620 assists and added 135 kills, 52 blocks, 249 digs and 44 aces.
Taylor Mowery, Jennings County: The senior led the Panthers with 403 digs and 51 aces.
Bailey Tabeling, Trinity Lutheran: The senior led the Cougars with 528 kills and added 26 assists, 45 blocks, 318 digs and 45 aces.
Addison Darlage, Trinity Lutheran: The sophomore led the Cougars with 1,053 assists and 62 aces and had 99 kills, 15 blocks and 262 digs.
Carson Bowling, Trinity Lutheran: The sophomore led the Cougars with 47 blocks and added 380 kills, 81 digs and 34 aces.
Laura Roeder, Trinity Lutheran: The sophomore led the Cougars with 607 digs and had 67 assists and 40 aces.
Gracie Crawhorn, Edinburgh: The senior led the Lancers with 235 kills,101 blocks and 406 digs and added 28 aces.
Zsophia Sharp, South Decatur: The freshman led the Cougars with 255 kills, 74 blocks and 52 aces and added 300 digs.
Abigail Watson, Brown County: The senior led the Eagles with 255 kills and 31 blocks and had 123 digsand 22 aces.
Brown County: Londyn Koester. Columbus Christian: Anika Jenkins, Emma Murray. Columbus East: Caroline Frost, Jenna Guse. Columbus North: Logan Branstetter. Edinburgh: Kyah Streeval. Hauser: Aniston Bostic, Charlie Clark, Kyra Meister. Jennings County: Charlee Barlow, Zoie Suhre. South Decatur: Paige McQueen, Makayla Somers. Trinity Lutheran: Drew Hubbard.