It isn't often that a 17 year old has a grasp of history, let alone an appreciation for those players that came before her.
Then again, Pasadena Poly senior Alexis Genske is special.
The Altadena resident is an alumna of Pasadena Christian School, the same institution that produced Mayfield standout and two-time CIF Southern Section Division champion Susan Carlson (Georgia Tech).
As a seventh grader, Genske was in attendance when Westridge outside hitter Katrina Post (Brown University) led the Tigers to a Division IV-AA title in 2006 and also has fond memories of playing against former Mayfield rivals Hannah Schraer (USC) and Rachel Aragon (Dartmouth).
"We've always had our share of club players, but have only received recognition the last couple of years," Genske said. "But that's fair because Westridge had a great player like Katrina Post for four years and Mayfield had a lot great players who brought their school limelight.
"I guess it was just our turn these past two years."
Each of the aforementioned girls defined successful eras for their respective teams in the same way Genske has led the Panthers' recent upswing.
Like those players, Genske received several accolades.
Unique, however, is that Genske was voted the All-Area Girls' Volleyball Player of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Pasadena Sun, Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun.
"She's deserving because she took control of this team and wanted the responsibility of being a team captain," Poly Coach Steve Beerman said. "It's one thing to have talent and quite another to have the drive to work hard."
The 6-foot middle blocker completed a masterful year in which she led the area in kills, with 364 through 24 matches, accompanying her 62 blocks and 36 aces.
Genske was also named the Prep League Most Valuable Player and CIF Southern Section Division III-AA Player of the Year.
As for her team, the Panthers (24-4) finished runner-up in the Prep League before losing to league rival Chadwick, 3-0, in the championship match of the CIF Division III-AA playoffs.
The Panthers did rebound from the defeat in posting a 3-0 victory over Independence in the first round of the CIF-State Division III playoffs before losing to Cathedral Catholic in the second round.
"This year was more of an emotional ride than in the past because I knew it was my senior year," Genske said. "This was my team and my chance to get it right and to go for the championship."
The Panthers started off strong, winning their first five matches this season, which included a Poly Tournament title.
"Coach Beerman is pretty conservative in saying we're going to win this or do that," Genske said. "But he had hopes and we all did in winning our Poly Tournament."
Shortly after, the Panthers ran into a familiar obstacle in Chadwick on Sept. 13, losing 25-14, 25-15, 25-15 to the Dolphins for the fourth consecutive time.
"You have to really credit Chadwick for their success against us, especially this year," Genske said. "They graduated some tall, talented girls from last year and responded by playing a lot better defense this year."
The Panthers didn't lose focus, however, winning their next four matches and setting up another showdown with Chadwick, this time at home on Oct. 11.
The Dolphins entered top-ranked in the division and undefeated at 12-0.
Both their record and standing fell, however, as Genske connected on a match-high 23 kills in leading the Panthers to a 26-24, 25-22, 25-20 win, which snapped the Dolphins' 18-match winning streak.
"We all wanted this win for a while," Panthers setter Michelle Miller said after the match. "The seniors wanted it — especially Alexis and I. It was fun setting her. She took her game to another level."
The Panthers may have very well won a league title had Genske not sprained her ankle at practice the very next day.
Genske missed the team's next four matches, as Poly finished 3-1 through that stretch.
The one defeat, however, was a costly 3-1 setback to Mayfield the day after her injury that pushed the Panthers into second place, where they stayed.
"It's easy to say we would have won league without that injury, but that's not fair to say," Beerman said. "What you could say is that Alexis proved just how valuable she was in absence."
The playoffs brought out the best in Genske, who averaged 15 kills per match and hit that total in a 25-18, 25-13, 25-16 win at Santa Monica in the semifinals on Nov. 30. That win vaulted Poly, which hadn't dropped a postseason game, into the divisional championship versus Chadwick.
"My teammates depended on me to be the leader and to be the player that others depended on," Genske said. "It's a role I grew into and learned to respect as a captain this year and last year."
While Chadwick defeated Poly 25-20, 24-26, 25-23, 25-17, it wasn't for a lack of effort by Genske, who tallied a match-high 26 kills and four blocks.
"There was some disappointment for sure," Genske said. "But we had a really good season and we had our chances at winning a championship. What else can you ask for?
"Plus, this year was fun. It was a great ride and it was fun to have our chance and get our recognition this year. It was great to be a part of history."