Looking back, sports burnout may have been a blessing in disguise for Derry’s Kenna Finlayson.
Finlayson had been doing gymnastics since she was 3 years old and, after a year of it at Pinkerton Academy, she was ready for a change.
“I just wanted to try something different,” said Finlayson, now a senior volleyball standout at Rivier College. “I’d been doing gymnastics so long.”
As a Pinkerton sophomore, Finlayson decided to give volleyball a try, a decision that has turned out beautifully for her and the Rivier program.
“I pretty much fell in love with the sport from the start,” she said.
Enjoying the sport, which entails a fair amount of technique, and mastering it are two very different things entirely. She played JV for the Astros as a sophomore and junior before finally making the varsity squad her senior year.
She started her senior year as an outside hitter and made great strides as the team enjoyed a fine season, advancing all the way to the championship game before losing to Spaulding.
By that time, Finlayson was taking volleyball quite seriously. She had started playing travel club volleyball and, following her final season as an Astro, she caught the eye of Rivier coach Craig Kolek.
Despite her limited background, Kolek liked what he saw and recruited the 5-foot-9-inch Finlayson aggressively enough to land her.
“She was raw, but she was athletic and she was strong,” said Kolek, a former Merrimack College hockey player who gravitated to volleyball and became a semi-pro beach volleyball player. “Strength was the big thing. I think her gymnastics background really helped.”
Kolek’s evaluation couldn’t have been more accurate.
In four years at Rivier, Finlayson made all-conference all four years, established the school record for kills and aces, and become one of the top players in New England. She was instrumental in Rivier winning the GNAC title last year and finishing runner-up while going 24-10 this fall.