When Andisheh Turner went to a Stanford volleyball game in fourth grade, she was amazed by the expertise of one of the players and decided she wanted to become equally as skilled. Taught by her father who played volleyball in college, Turner started playing club volleyball for Encore Volleyball Club in fifth grade, as well as beach volleyball. Placed in a new position, Turner said she has been looking forward to learning more. “I’m a hitter in the back row, which I’ve never been before… and I’m really excited to have [this new position],” Turner said.
For Tessa Hunter, transitioning from the position of middle and opposite to a backer, volleyball was introduced to her by her mother, who played volleyball in college. Hunter began playing for Mountain View Volleyball Club before making it into Encore, then beach volleyball.
“Volleyball is a great way to get a workout in while relieving energy and stress,” Hunter said.
Encouraged by her father, Lydia Weeks started playing club volleyball for her middle school Crittenden in sixth grade, and began playing beach volleyball and club volleyball for Encore soon after. Previously a setter, Lydia started in the position of libero, a defense specialist, this year and said she has enjoyed the challenge.
“I love to read the emotions of the people on the other side of the net,” said Weeks. “When you play people who are a lot older than you in volleyball you have to learn how to adapt to the pace quickly.”
All three were placed on varsity this year, which is rare for freshmen. In previous years, there have been at most one freshman on the team, so having three shows the level of dedication and skill each one holds, according to Coach Dave Winn.
Coach Winn coaches both varsity and junior varsity girls volleyball in the evening, and elaborated on how quickly the three have been learning. “[All three girls] were just so solid in tryouts, that I had to take them on the team, and they have been doing a great job. I think what makes them unique is that each of them is very confident in their own way… Each of them actually already played in matches, has contributed, and they’re all very confident. When you take age off, when it comes to maturity, they were all ready to play on varsity,” Winn said.
According to the three players, playing volleyball requires a devotion to the sport, and playing for more advanced leagues such as club can be demanding. All three girls have practice five days a week, as well as tournaments on the weekend for the majority of the volleyball season. Practice for school is two days a week, while club practice is three days a week, but can have even longer practice hours. “Club is really competitive. I feel that when people hear volleyball is a club sport, they just kind of shrug it off and compare it to school volleyball,” Hunter said, “But, honestly, in school volleyball you play two games a week, but in club, you could be playing eight games a day.”
Some volleyball programs, such as Encore, have special study rooms to help students balance school work with this demanding sport, making managing volleyball along with players’ school schedule easier, said Weeks. But sometimes, the rigor of maintaining this balance can have benefits along with the hardships. “I actually really like it when we have tournaments, because it makes me become more organized. When you’re with your team, everyone on the team knows that we all have homework, and we just can’t deny that we have something to do. It kind of forces us to get together and actually do homework,” Weeks said.
As the girls volleyball season begins to wrap up with the last match on Sept. 30, and Central Coast Section volleyball championship events on Nov. 2 and 9, the excitement that these players feel continues. “ Volleyball is amazing… it’s just a great way to make connections… It’s like having a second family,” Hunter said.