She is one of the most competitive athletes out there. Even with her fire, though, she has one of the kindest hearts to those around her. —Pleasant Grove head coach Allyce Jones
PLEASANT GROVE — Heather Gneiting has a sweet, even docile energy that makes her a loving sister and favorite friend.
Put her on the volleyball court, however, and the Pleasant Grove senior becomes a competitive beast that energizes teammates and intimidates opponents.
“As a person, she brings a lot of fire on and off the court,” said Pleasant Grove head coach Allyce Jones. “She is one of the most competitive athletes out there. Even with her fire, though, she has one of the kindest hearts to those around her.”
The BYU-bound middle blocker earned the 2017 Ms. Volleyball Award because of her dominating athletic skill that helped her lead the Vikings to a second-place finish in the 6A state tournament last month.
“Heather leads by example by having high intensity every time she steps onto the court,” Jones said. “Her high level of intensity and ability help others around her to play at a higher level.
The fifth of Tom and Kristin Gneiting’s six children, Heather followed her older siblings into the sport that neither of her parents played. In doing so, the senior, who loves the outdoors and sewing, discovered more than competitive success.
“When she was little, she was very, very quiet,” said her mom, Kristin Gneiting. “As she got older, she just kind of found her own way. She got tall very fast, but she was kind of shy. Then she really came into herself, become confident and showed that she has a really funny personality. A lot of (her) confidence came from being able to have success on the court.”
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
That confidence helped her earn All-American honors from Under Armour. She will join 23 other senior volleyball players from around the country at the final four of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament Dec. 13-15. There she will compete for the West team accepting an honor that was last offered to a Utah player 10 years ago.
“(It is) well-deserved,” Jones said of the honor. “She has made some noise at the high school level, but she will have an immediate impact at the next level.”
Gneiting finished the season with 219 kills and 38 solo blocks, as well as 101 total blocks. Her ferocity at the net made her a fan favorite — and a fearsome opponent.
“It is really tough to prepare for Heather,” said Lone Peak head coach Reed Carlson. “She is incredibly dynamic, physically and mentally. She is fun to compete against because she gives everything she has to each point, and at the same time, is not fun to compete against because she’s very effective in scoring those points.” One of the challenges opposing coaches faced was that Gneiting is always working to improve and evolve.
“She is constantly improving and changing,” Carlson said. “What we saw last match isn’t what we will see the next match. She is the type of player willing and wanting to put the match on her back, and she finds ways to always make a big impact.”
Jones called Gneiting a game-changer.
Heather Gneiting (5) of Pleasant grove touches the ball over the net against the defense of Syracuse as the Pleasant Grove Vikings take on the Syracuse High Titans during the opening day of 6A volleyball tournament at the Utah Community Credit Union Center at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Pleasant Grove High won the match 3 sets to none to advance to the second day of competition. | Adam Fondren, Deseret News
“Heather is a rare athlete, that changes the game when she is on the floor,” Jones said. “She has the capability to solely controlling the match at the net because of her height, power, and athleticism, which is a rare combination from a high school middle blocker.”
Kristin Gneiting said Jones’ coaching has helped her daughter evolve into an even better player because now she can use her natural “fierceness” to her advantage.
“Allyce helped her develop control of that,” Kristin said. “As a sophomore she would be so hard on herself, and the best thing Allyce was able to do was get her to (engage in) positive talk.”
Jones helped her see that beating herself up for mistakes was only holding her back and ensuring more mistakes.
“I really noticed that when she came in with that positive energy, the team would feel it,” Kristin said. “She has that intensity at home. She gets good grades and just works hard. Whatever she’s determined to do, she does.”
And at the same time, Gneiting provides comfort and support to those she loves most.
“She is one of the kindest friends,” Kristin said, noting her daughter is both an adventurous spirit who embraces the realities of hard work. “And she’s like that with her siblings as well.”