RICHTON PARK | Tessa Vant Hoff is the quiet, unassuming hitter on the Illiana Christian volleyball team.
While Tina Massey is firing shots down the line from the outside, and Kylie VanRoekel and Jamie Petrarca are pounding quicks out of the middle, Vant Hoff bides her time on the right side.
When Hannah Wegner places a back set to the right, Van Hoff comes alive and strategically hits the ball.
"She's a smart hitter," Illiana coach Nikki Van Dyke said. "She never overpowers you with a kill. She's always hitting a spot or a line or a soft middle."
Vant Hoff smiles shyly when asked about her intelligence.
"Coach calls me GPA," the 17-year-old senior said.
Vant Hoff is a four-year player and two-year varsity starter for the Vikings, who are 20-16 and won their fourth-consecutive regional title Thursday by beating Queen of Peace in the Class 3A Rich South Regional final.
Illiana (20-16) faces Bremen at 7 p.m. today in one semifinal of the Class 3A Rich East Sectional.
Vant Hoff had two kills and two blocks in the regional final victory against Queen of Peace, but her tip kill and her set show her versatility and court awareness. She adds great balance to the Vikings.
"She never gets down," Van Dyke said. "She's always positive. She wasn't even going to try out this year."
Vant Hoff's father has multiple sclerosis, and Vant Hoff considered getting a job to help with college expenses instead of playing volleyball.
"Last year I didn't play that much and I wasn't a hundred percent sure I wanted to play this year," Vant Hoff said. "I didn't have a lot of confidence last year and I thought I'd just work for college, but I realized this could be my last year playing volleyball."
Van Dyke and the Vikings are glad Vant Hoff decided to stick around. After all, volleyball is her favorite sport, and the 5-foot-10 player loves playing right side.
"I used to play middle on the the freshman and JV teams," Vant Hoff said, "but I'm not the fastest person to get over for blocking. I like right side."
Whatever today's outcome, Vant Hoff has enjoyed the journey.
"I love playing here," she said. "This is a great group of girls. I love that they encourage me, and that coach encourages me."