St. Joseph’s volleyball star begins Penn State career

Ben Loewnau | STLhighschoolsports.com

Friends, family and fans of Gabby Blossom already knew of the St. Joseph's Academy volleyball star's athletic achievements, academic excellence and exemplary character, but it's public knowledge now.

The qualities are part of the selection of the Gatorade Player of the Year award, established in 1985 to recognize the nation's most elite high school student-athletes. Blossom was chosen the Missouri Volleyball Player of the Year, in addition to being named one of three finalists for the national award.

The 5-foot-10 senior setter led St. Joseph's Academy to a 33-3 record and the Class 4 state championship last fall. Blossom recorded 794 assists, 184 digs, 69 kills and 36 blocks while posting a kill percentage of .421 and a hitting percentage of .366. An American Volleyball Coaches Association First Team All-American and a MaxPreps Second Team All-American, she received the Andi Collins Award as the nation's best senior setter. A four-year starter, she was selected twice for first-team All-Metro and all-state honors. A three-time all-conference and all-district player, she was the St. Louis Post Dispatch All-Metro Player of the Year in 2017.

In the classroom, she maintained a 3.75 grade point average. A member of the Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor society, Blossom volunteered as a youth volleyball coach.

She won't be found in the halls of St. Joseph's Academy this semester however, since she fulfilled her requirements for graduation and in January began studies at Penn State University, where she'll play on the top-ranked volleyball team in the fall.

"It's kind of weird," she said of beginning college early. "But I still stay in touch with all of them (her classmates)."

Blossom is taking 12 credit hours and will take additional classes in the summer. "I get to ease into it," she said, adding that she has yet to declare a major.

"I was lucky to go to St. Joe, with the pretty high academics, and do a lot that prepared me for college," she said.

Academics are important to her. "Getting good grades was big in my family," said the parishioner of Mary Queen of Peace in Webster Groves. Also, Blossom noted, "I'm a perfectionist with just about everything so I'm not OK with not doing good in school."

In college, she said "you have to want to go to class, you have to want to take good notes and study. You don't have a ton of free time to get things done, so you have to be motivated."

Blossom also has been busy with workouts, in the weight room lifting or doing conditioning with the goal of getting stronger and faster. The volleyball season starts in the fall.

The recognition she received from Gatorade is an honor, she said, but "if you're giving it to a setter, you're giving it to the whole team. People behind me were giving me a ball I can set, and my hitters were the ones getting the kills in order for me to get the assists. It's a really cool award, but a lot of the credit goes to my teammates for helping me get it."

St. Joseph's has a great history in sports but especially volleyball, said Blossom, who also played club volleyball for Rockwood Thunder. "I grew up watching St. Joe's games and wanting to be that good. I wanted to win state. That's always been one of my biggest goals in life."

Blossom also cited the friendships she made at St. Joseph's Academy. "I'm lucky I got to be a part of it," she said of the team and school.

Her faith is important to her, refined by going to Catholic schools. "Our schools were centered around faith," she said. Little things such as praying as a team before games helped bring her faith into her life "and volleyball definitely is a big part of my life," Blossom said. "It's definitely helped me through hard times because sports definitely aren't easy. There's definitely challenges and struggles in it."

Plenty of long practices and heartbreaking games — not always easy or happy times — are comparable to "anything you have a passion for in life," she said. "But it's worth it."

Blossom committed to Penn State going into her sophomore year of high school. "My biggest thing is I wanted to win national championships," she said. Blossom bonded with the coaching staff and other recruits after attending a summer volleyball camp there after her freshman year of high school, and her desire to attend Penn State was strengthened after learning about its academic programs.

The university is far from home but she will play many games at schools in the Midwest, including at Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana and Purdue. 

St. Joseph's Academy volleyball

In October, St. Joseph's Academy won against Lafayette in the state Class 4 quarterfinals to end the Lancers' streak of titles. Gabby Blossom had 21 assists and three blocks for St. Joseph's in the win. One-week later, St. Joseph's swept Ozark to earn the state championship.

Among the honors Blossom received in high school was the Andi Collins Award as the nation's best senior setter. A four-year starter, she was selected twice for first-team All-Metro and all-state honors. She also was a three-time all-conference and all-district player. 

>> Other volleyball standouts

All-State players from Catholic high schools in the archdiocese included:

Class 1
Sydni Bastar, Lainey Bowman, Taylor Siebert and Riley Wolk, all of Valle Catholic

Class 2
Emma Grimshaw, Carly Nicholson, Caly Otec and Kaylee Portell, all of St. Pius X High School in Festus

Class 3
Katelyn Kirtley of Villa Duchesne, Abby Lynn and Paige Lynn of St. Francis Borgia and Ally Reichart and Tori Stuart of Incarnate Word Academy

Class 4
Tara Beilsmith, Gabby Blossom, Madison Gresham, Claire Ochs and Morgan Smith of St. Joseph's Academy; Meghan Cantwell and Julia Mattingly of Cor Jesu Academy; Gretchen Graf of Nerinx Hall; and Allie Otten of St. Dominic 

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