Mitchell’s Anabelle Gillen has dreamed of playing volleyball for Western Nebraska Community College since her freshman year. That dream became reality on Tuesday with Gillen signed with the Cougars.
Gillen’s decision to sign with WNCC wasn’t a difficult one after WNCC head coach Binny Canales, who has watched her play for four years, offered her a scholarship.
“WNCC was definitely my first school,” Gillen said. “I wanted to go there for a while now, staying close to home and having my family right there. I was thinking about Black Hills State, but when Binny gave me the offer, I knew this was going to be it.“
Canales said he knew, from the first time he watched her play, that she could be a special volleyball player.
“I have been watching her since she was a freshman,” Canales said. “She is one of the first kids we saw in camps here and athletically we expect great things from her. I am very thankful to sign her and she makes Western Nebraska volleyball better.”
Gillen said just watching WNCC volleyball play was something that she wanted.
“As a kid I always liked going and watching WNCC play. It is always amazing to watch college athletes and watch how they do things and look up to them,” Gillen said. “When I was a freshman Coach Binny [Canales] and I started talking more, and I started to get more excited. That is what led me to WNCC right away.”
That dream to be a Cougar athlete and be looked up to like so many of the WNCC athletes are, was a dream Gillen couldn’t resist.
“Ever since I was a kid and going to watching them and realizing that is what I wanted to be and look up to,” Gillen said. “When I knew I had that opportunity, I knew I had to jump on it.”
Gillen’s passion for volleyball grew more intense after her senior season when she took off the Tiger volleyball uniform for the final time. She knew how much she loved the game.
“It [signing to play college volleyball] is more than I ever could ask for,” Gillen said. “I knew after volleyball season was over it couldn’t end there. I had to find a way to play at another level.”
Gillen had a sensational volleyball career. She also excelled in basketball and track and field, but her heart was with volleyball.
“As much as I love basketball, it was pretty easy that I would decide to do volleyball over basketball,” Gillen said.
Gillen has been a vital cog to the Tiger volleyball program over the past four years. Gillen finished her volleyball career with 1,318 set assists and 748 kills. Gillen also had 1,211 digs, 201 aces and finished with a .225 hitting efficiency.
This past fall, Gillen was part of a Tiger program that went 22-7. Gillen led the team in assists with 463, ace serves with 68, and service points with 239. She also had 113 kills and 242 digs.
Gillen said it has been a pleasure being a part of a Mitchell senior class the past four years.
“It has been a blessing playing with all these girls,” she said. “They know I would do anything for them. Ever since we were little, we were hanging out and being really close and know that if something doesn’t go your way the team is right there behind your back to pick you up.”
Gillen has earned a number of honors during her four years at Mitchell both athletically and academically. She was a NSAA Academic All-state all four years, third team all-region in volleyball in 2016 and 2017, Western Trails Conference and Western Conference All-Conference all four years, and was all-state honorable mention by the Omaha World Herald and Lincoln Journal Star.
At the college level, she will take things that Mitchell volleyball coach Michelle Peters kept telling them as she continues improving.
“[I will take with me] Determination and knowing that coach told us that good kids are first and athletes second,” she said. “So, I need to make sure I keep my studies up,, being a good person on and off the court, and putting everything in my sports.”
Gillen is planning on majoring in pre-med and wants to be a RN, but she said it might chance a few times.