Six-footer Rachel Finbeiner's offensive and defensive skills at the net have been a big plus for Elk volleyball along with her powerful serving. She is also an active student leader.
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Having Rachel Finkbeiner to patrol the middle of the net has been a luxury for the Elk River volleyball team in recent years.
A 6-foot, 145-pound athlete with long arms, average leaping ability but excellent agility, Finkbeiner leads the Elks (12-15) with 222 kills and a .413 kill percentage. She has 16 solo blocks (second) and 32 assisted blocks (first). She is also a formidable jump-server with 39 aces (second) and a .911 percentage.
She is a one-sport athlete but makes her mark impressively in school life, too.
"Rachel is an excellent leader on the court because she has really advanced skills, and she is a leader off the court, too," said coach Pam Gothe. "She is an outstanding student. She's very motivated. She is very active in DECA and National Honor Society. She sets a great example as a student and athlete, and she manages a very busy schedule."
As the middle hitter/blocker, the Elks need Finkbeiner to execute a variety of plays which each have several hitting options, while on defense, she's called up to block "from antenae to antenae" which requires quick, smart reactions. Gothe is pleased that the veteran middle hitter has an excellent grasp of both the offensive and defensive sets.
Asked what the team needs from her, Finkbeiner said "To put the ball down!" along with leadership and spirit.
"I want us to have lots of energy and excitement and drive," she said. "I help with that."
Along with her skills at the net, Rachel Finbkeiner had logged 161 aces at the service stripe in her career. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
A starter since ninth grade, Finkbeiner has logged 525 kills, 161 serve aces and 290 digs in her career. She was team MVP as a junior, leading an 8-18 team with 176 kills and 57 aces.
Finkbeiner is elated to have her lone sibling, Janell, a freshman, as a teammate this season. Janell is doing well as a starting setter. They're dueling for the team lead in aces with Janell up 46-39. Mailnly, Rachel needs Janell to set for her.
"In the Chisago Lakes game (last Thursday) my sister and I finally really clicked on our 31's (a set play) and we made four kills in a row," Finkbeiener said. "That was one of my career highlights in high school."
The Elks have been a below-.500 team her whole career but she keeps up hope.
"That's been frustrating at times, but now we're in a new section this year and there's lots of opportunities there," said Finkbeiner. "It's a clean slate now. We're a pretty young team."
She did get a big dose of success on her AAU team, Northern Lights. The band of Minnesotans won the AAU national tournament this summer in Florida.
"That was the coolest thing I've ever experienced in volleyball," she gushed.
Gold medal skater Michelle Kwan was Finkbeiner's first inspiration.
"I watch her in the Olympics when I was in kindergarten and they said she'd skated since she was three," recalled Finkbeiner. "I knew I couldn't start volleyball until third grade, but I decided I wanted to go to the Olympics! And I picked volleyball, right then, and I stuck with it."
Finkbeiner is determined to play college volleyball, which will play a big part in her choice of college. An "A" student, she says her dream job would be "to own a magazine company."
The Finkbeiner scorecard
Personal data — Age: 17 … Family: parents Keith and Joan; sister Janell, 14 … Sport: volleyball … Other activities: DECA (district vice president), National Honor Society (vice president), Link Crew, Yellow Ribbon Club, Northwest Suburban Conference Leadership … Academics: 3.96 GPA … College: undecided where; volleyball, communications
Favorite stuff — Classes: Human Anatomy and Advanced Marketing … TV show: "Friends" and "Desperate Housewives" … Movie: "Pirates of the Caribbean" … Music: country, especially Rascal Flatts … Food: Chipotle fare, especially chicken burrito … Drink: coca cola … Team: "Purple Pride!" … Athletes: "I have many! Misty May, Kerri Walsh, Larry Fitzgerald, Kevin Garnett, Apolo Anton Ohno, Michelle Kwan, Shawn White, Michael Phelps" … Kickback activity: traveling, writing … Place she'd like to visit: Italy