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Greenwood leading with a smile

Photos by Jennifer Rumschik 

It used to be about D1. Now, it’s all about fun.

Rachel Greenwood, a Kenmore West senior, has a different approach to her fourth and final season of varsity volleyball.

Early on, especially during her freshmen and sophomore seasons, Greenwood was laser focused on the goal of trying to secure a Division-I college scholarship in the sport she loves.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and everything changed.

Greenwood experienced an epiphany that helped her put things in perspective. To see who and what was really important.

Thoughts of signing and college ball vanished. All Greenwood wanted was one more year of high school ball with her friends. When it was made official that volleyball would be played in the spring as part of the Fall II season, Greenwood told Lady Blue Devils coach Brittany Lis she just wanted to have fun. She wasn’t going to stress about playing time. Whatever was needed of her, she would do.

She just wanted to be a good teammate and a leader the girls could count on.

“Definitely,” said Greenwood. “We haven’t played since 2019. A lot of us didn’t do travel so coming in, it was a little nerve-wracking, but I was very excited that we were having a new team and it was a new season and that we were given the opportunity to play this year. For my last year, I just wanted to try and do whatever Brittany needed.”

Even her mask could not hide the smile on coach Lis’ face when she recalled that conversation with Greenwood. The genuine way Rachel spoke, told Lis that this was a different more mature girl than she had been before.

“She came into the season just so appreciative just to have a season and to be back in the court with the girls,” Lis said. “She had a whole new perspective that every minute she is on the court she is gonna do everything she can and not take it for granted.”

Interestingly enough now that Greenwood, who plays middle, has put thoughts of college ball to bed she’s playing better than ever. From an encouraging voice on the court to clutch plays at the net, Greenwood is playing more relaxed than ever before and seeing her best results.

“I found that it’s not like a job anymore as it was when I was younger cause I wanted the scholarships and I wanted to play (in college). But now I want to be there for my team.”

With a roster of 17 girls, six of whom are either freshmen or sophomores, Greenwood said that meshing as soon as possible was key and she wanted to help facilitate that bond of togetherness.

Lis said that Greenwood has been exactly the type of captain and leader this group needed. Whether it’s been setting the right example on the floor or defusing minor personality conflicts within the team circle, Greenwood has matured before her eyes.

“To watch her for the past four years develop as a player, as a student-athlete and as a young woman she has just matured immensely and taken on this leadership role where the girls on the team look for her to help motivate,” said Lis. “To keep their composure. To support them on the court and even to talk to them about the game of volleyball because she is very knowledgeable.”

“I owe all of it to my team because they have helped me grow up,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said that waiting and wondering if she would have her senior year of volleyball sent a cold shiver through her and made her realize just how much the little things like playing the game she loves with her teammates really meant to her. Having a chance to play is a blessing and she wants to cherish every moment.

“We didn’t know until two weeks before that our season started that we were going to be guaranteed a season,” she said. “And even now with Covid regulations, we don’t know if we’re going to be playing all season. It was nerve-wracking to think that I might not have a senior season and I’m very appreciative that we do have one.”

Lis said that Greenwood has been a perfect example to the whole team about how to put things in perspective and appreciate every day on the court. And that nothing in life is a gimmie.

“She sets a good example for the girls. That the thing we take for granted every day. Those little things that we missed during – focus and they come back and (see) wow we really need to come together as a team and enjoy the time that we have together,” Lis said. “She’s really shown the girls that through her leadership skills on and off the court.”

Greenwood will attend Mercyhurst University where she will study for a career in Federal law enforcement.

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