One of the reasons Geena Bevenour decided to attend the brand new Pope John Paul II High School was the opportunity to play on an equally new volleyball team ... one that had a clean slate, one that the players could turn into anything they wanted.
Four years later, the Golden Panther squad has made its mark in the area and the state, and Bevenour has been the heart of it. She has guided the team's offense as the setter and shown the ability to turn the most mediocre pass into a perfect set, used hustle and desire to become one of the leaders in digs, and been the team's emotional leader as well.
This year she led PJP to an undefeated record in the Pioneer Athletic Conference's inaugural season, a second straight District 1-AA championship, and a spot in the PIAA quarterfinals while contributing over 600 assists and 200 digs. Her intelligent quarterbacking of the offense and inspirational leadership made everyone around her a better player and earned her All-State honors. She is also the overwhelming choice as The Mercury's first-ever All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
At 5 feet 5 inches tall, Bevenour doesn't battle the heavy hitters and blockers on the front line and garner headlines with the number of kills and blocks she produces. But being right in the middle of the action on every play is a reward of its own.
"You get to touch every ball,' said Bevenour, who handled the ball 893 times with only 38 errors, racked up 670 assists (8.4 per set), made 206 digs, and compiled a 95.8 serve percentage, including 32 aces and 193 service points this season.
"Her work ethic is probably her greatest asset,' said PJP head coach Ryan Sell. "She's very athletic. She's a really strong kid. She understands the game. She's been playing for a very long time at a very high level. She's a really great leader.
This year's highlights included an 8-0 record in the first-ever PAC-10 season without losing a set and a three-set sweep of Villa Maria Academy to earn a second straight district title. Then came a 3-0 win over Bethlehem Catholic in the first round of the PIAA-AA Tournament in which Bevenour had nine digs and 16 service points, including six in a row to open a third-game rout after PJP had been tested in the first two sets.
But the most memorable match of the season for Bevenour came in early October on PJP's Dig Pink Night against Villa Maria Academy when the Golden Panthers dropped the first two sets before storming back to take three in a row and raised $2,170 for cancer research at Mercy Suburban Hospital.
"We didn't come out strong,' said Bevenour. "It was just the feeling of the huge crowd and support and being able to come back and win.
The season came to an end with a four-set loss to Lansdale Catholic in the state quarterfinals, with Bevenour finishing her career with 33 assists, eight service points, five digs, and only one error while handling the ball 42 times.
That ended the season two steps and three wins earlier than the Golden Panthers' goal after making it the PIAA Final Four the previous year.
"The way Lansdale Catholic played that day, they deserved to win,' said Bevenour. "But I could not ask for a better team to play with this year. We have awesome chemistry as a team ... hanging out after practice and on weekends. No matter what happened during the season, I would have been happy. Just repeating as district champions was awesome.
After the season, she was named to the PAC-10 First Team and the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association All-State Team for Class AA schools.
Bevenour began playing volleyball in fourth grade for Mother of Divine Providence in King of Prussia and started playing on a club team in sixth grade.
She also considered attending Villa Maria or Archbishop Carroll, but was excited about the idea of helping to start a new volleyball program.
"It was part of the reason I chose to go to PJP in the first place,' she said. "We got to make our own identity. We had a clean slate, and we started an awesome program there.'She has also run on the track team and played lacrosse in high school and played club soccer.
"She can be good at any sport,' said Sell. "She could probably be a Division I soccer player. One year on the lacrosse team, she was probably the best player as a freshman.
"It was tough,' Bevenour said concerning her decision to concentrate on volleyball. "I played a million sports growing up. I had to choose. But it's the pace of volleyball. Not only do you have to be athletic and well-coordinated, it's also a big mental game. You have to concentrate on communicating. It's such a team sport.
Bevenour is president of student council, has been heavily involved in community service, and is the anchor person for the PJP TV studio. She has not yet made a decision on where to continue her education.
"That is still very much up in the air,' she added. "The thing is, I'm really looking to be a communications major ... major in broadcast journalism. I want to focus on my major. If volleyball lines up, that will be awesome.'