When Nueva’s Upper School first opened three years ago, the volleyball team won one game its first season. Today, the team is 6–1 in league play and is hoping to make the playoffs.
“If we stay on track, we’ll be playoff contenders for the first season we’re eligible in league,” volleyball coach Sarah Leong said, adding this is the first season Nueva sports are members of the Private School Athletic League (PSAL).
“It gives the girls a goal,” Leong said. “They’re talking about playoffs and they like the competitiveness of it.”
But for the players, being a member of the Nueva volleyball team isn’t just about the number of wins.
“To be honest, my goal for the season is to make sure everyone has as great of an experience as they can,” junior Natalie H. said. “I want the girls to leave this season feeling accomplished — they’ve really all worked incredibly hard — but also continuing to foster a love for the sport. Sure, it’d be great to win every time we head out there, but I’m so much prouder of the sense of camaraderie that we share as a team than the numbers on the scoreboard.”
Natalie added she thinks it’s unique how connected the players not only are with each other, but with the entire Nueva community.
“We always have such supportive folks coming out to watch us play when we’re facing an opponent at home, which helps tremendously in bolstering our spirits,” she said.
Last Thursday during the team’s match again Kehillah Jewish, Nueva hosted a Dig Pink volleyball game to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The team and many fans wore pink jerseys, people recited a few facts, and parent Christine Salah, who is also a breast cancer survivor, gave a brief speech about how the importance of community.
“The Nueva community got me through it,” Salah said. “Do everything you can to build community because it’s amazing.”
The game was filled with school spirit as fans cheered for the team and after each point, players would come together and yell a quick chant.
“The Nueva volleyball team offers a really unique experience of wanting to succeed, but also recognizing that winning doesn’t always equate to success,” Natalie said. “In my eyes, the fact that we present such a united front against opponents — and don’t have oppositions within the team — is a great accomplishment and our record comes second to that by far.”
Junior Jackie C. said the team is very strategic, and players use that to their advantage.
“We approach each new point from multiple angles, analyzing the possible weaknesses — so far, it’s helped us do well,” she said.
This season, Leong said she’s noticed a change in the girls, and can tell they’re ready to compete at a higher level. When the line-up and strategy are changed mid-game, the players work through the confusion of a new rotation together. When they suffered their first loss this season, they fought for every single point because they wanted to go undefeated.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth,” Leong said. “I’ve seen more confidence on the court from all of the girls. When the girls without as much experience step on the court everyone is cheering and encouraging them. The team is very supportive and encouraging toward each other. That’s difficult to find in any team.”
And they take responsibility for their own mistakes; they don’t blame each other.
“It’s a team effort,” Leong said. “I see players on the sidelines encourage those on the court. It’s hard to find girls on the bench who want to speak up. The great thing about the team is they all work very well together. They have great chemistry on and off the court.”
Sophomore Kiki K. added it’s been exciting shaping the direction of the program.
“We have great coaches who push us to work hard and are helping to build the foundation for Nueva volleyball in the future,” Kiki said.
October 21, 2016