Much like the fictional television character, Doogie Howser, Trilby Kite is anything but a "normal" high school senior.
In fact, there are very few "normal" things about the gifted West York girls’ volleyball setter, who only recently turned 16.
Age, however, is only a number for Kite.
Perhaps the most accurate term to describe Kite is exceptional. That would align favorably with comparisons to Howser, the whiz-kid doctor played by Neil Patrick Harris in the late 1980s.
Seemingly everything Kite has done over her life has been noteworthy. Whether it's in education, where the cyber-schooled prodigy skipped past two academic grades by the time she was 6. Or in athletics, where she once wore pads and a helmet with the boys as a junior high football player.
No matter the endeavor, Kite has seemed to excel.
“Even though she’s cyber (schooled), she fits right in with everyone,” said Kate Tate, Kite’s fellow senior on the West York girls' volleyball team. “She has the social skills and athletic capabilities (of a high school senior).”
Kite can thank her family, which includes three sisters and three step-brothers, for helping her become the athlete that she is today. Her three sisters, Cheyenne Robinett, Shaina Robinett and Tailyn Kite, all played volleyball in high school.
“They all started way before me,” Trilby Kite said. “But I was like, ‘I want to do that because all of my sisters are doing it.’”
Playing football: That is the same kind of thinking that helped Kite get involved in youth football.
“I went with my brothers to their morning football workouts,” she said. “And I liked it. And they would joke around with me (about) actually playing, and I thought that might actually be a good idea.”
Kite’s aggressiveness on the volleyball court can probably be traced back to her football days. Her mother, Selene Gentzler, recalled a time when her daughter, who played wide receiver and defense back, knocked down an opposing player, who lost his helmet in the process. Gentzler has also heard that, even to these days, some West York players will use Kite as an example to motivate teammates.
“I have heard they used her to kind of shame other players who don’t know the plays,” Gentzler said. “She hasn’t played for four years, but she still knows the plays better than them. And she does.”
While playing against older opponents in volleyball is one thing, playing against older — and often much bigger — boys in football was a different story. Gentzler was fine with her daughter playing the sport up until Kite began high school, but as a 12-year-old freshman, Gentlzer came to the conclusion that Trilby’s playing days were over.
“Middle school boys aren’t very big at that age,” Gentzler said. “So she was always kind of the same size. And she was pretty tough. But once she got to high school I wouldn’t let her play anymore.”
Kite didn’t disagree.
“I just turned 12 and I wasn’t about to be going up against guys that were 18 years old,” she said with a laugh. “And my mom really wanted me in one piece.”
Focusing on volleyball: That’s when Kite began to focus exclusively on volleyball, a sport she's played competitively since she was 8. Up until her junior year, Kite had not yet reached a significant growth spurt. Her size, or lack thereof, fit nicely for a defensive player. Many of the top defenders in high school volleyball are often around 5-feet tall. But when she showed up to West York’s girls’ volleyball preseason camp last year, Kite was no longer a 5-footer. That growth spurt finally hit to put her closer to her current 5-11 frame.
“Between my sophomore year and my junior year it was a little crazy,” Kite said. “I went from like 5-3 to 5-10, and when I showed up for the season, some people didn’t believe I grew that much. But then I stood next to (teammate) Marissa (Krinock) and they realized that I really was tall now.”
Kite’s growth spurt, perhaps coincidentally, aligned perfectly with the upward trajectory of the Bulldog girls’ volleyball squad. Kite helped West York advance all the way to the PIAA Class 3-A state semifinals for the first time in school history last season.
Bulldogs shine as team: While there was no big growth spurt this year, Kite is nevertheless hoping to help her team make some more history this year. The Bulldogs enter this week with a 14-1 overall record, which positions them among the top five schools in the District 3 3-A power ratings. West York leads York-Adams Division II with a 10-0 mark.
One of the primary reasons the Bulldogs have remained as successful this year, as they were last year, is the play of Kite. After being used mainly as a defensive specialist and libero over her first three seasons, Kite made the move to the setter position this season. While she had very limited experience at the varsity level prior to this season at the position, Kite earned her stripes and then some with her KRVA club team this summer.
“I was playing with and against other (NCAA) Division I-caliber girls,” Kite said. “And it’s a big difference in the speed of the game between high school and playing with my (club) team.”
That squad earned a berth into the High Performance Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this past summer where the team finished second in the nation.
It didn’t take long for Kite’s coach at West York, Joe Ramp, to notice. Typically it takes new setters a feeling-out period before they hit their stride. For Kite, the switch was seamless.
“She’s always had aspirations of being a setter,” Ramp said. “With her club team, she was setting there this summer and that really helped her out this year.”
Making her college choice: College coaches seemed to take notice.
Kite, who was still 15 at the time, found herself mulling several offers, which included a full-tuition-paid scholarship offer this summer to Georgian Court University, a NCAA Division II program in Lakewood, New Jersey. After reviewing all of her options, and with a good bit of soul searching, Kite decided to accept Georgian Court’s offer recently.
“It was just a matter of where I would feel most at home,” Kite said. “And Georgian Court was it.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.