Dedication. Teamwork. Determination. Support. Spirit. Laughter.
These words were a common theme when the players and coaches of Grace's volleyball teams were asked what made their teams this year so special. Three Grace Volleyball teams dug beyond their skill this fall and relied on spirit and comradery to produce successful seasons.
The Middle School 7/8 Volleyball team finished the season with an undefeated record, their first undefeated season in the Athletic Conference of Independent Schools (A.C.I.S.) division. Lisa Quirk, Physical Education teacher and coach of the team for the last 32 years, believes the team's support of one another brought them to victory. “The ability of the team to play together as a unit made us successful,” Mrs. Quirk says. “Veteran Players worked with rookies to improve skills and foster team spirit. Twice this season, they were down a match, and the players were able to stay composed and determined when the going got tough.” Eighth grade captains, Julia G., Sadie G. and Eleanor L. agree with Mrs. Quirk. “Some of the most fun moments during this season were when we defeated some of the most challenging teams. Throughout the games, everyone, even teammates who were not on the court, encouraged each other, which helped us develop closer relationships,” Eleanor added.
For the last seven years, the middle school volleyball team has shared a gym with the Junior Varsity (JV) and Varsity teams. But in September, with the completion of the new gym at Cooper Square, JV and Varsity Volleyball became the first teams to host matches in what is now their official home. “The new gym made all the difference,” JV Coach Donovan Buckle remarked. “There was support from all facets of the school community. It (the new gym) was a blessing.”
The Varsity team, led by seniors Soleil A., Kayla D. and Julie M., finished in 2nd place in the ACIS Invitational post-season tournament hosted at Grace. “The greatest strength of our team was our hustle,” Varsity coach Tyce Dagel exclaimed. “This group of student-athletes are diverse and involved. They brought a variety of interests to the team ranging from art, equestrian, other sports, and players from varying years on the team. We also had people who were participating in other activities such as tutoring, college presentations, dance, and video. One player also was ranked in the top ten of her event in the nation for equestrian while we were in season.” Despite the various demands of each member of the team outside of volleyball, they were able to rely on one another to give a peak performance in the post season. With an exciting win in the semi-finals, the student- athletes moved on to the finals where Friends Seminary took first place.
The Varsity team set a high standard for the rising JV team, but they were more than up for the task. A young team of mostly freshman and inexperienced players, the JV team surprised their coach, who raved that they “played like champions” all season. From serving to attacking, “they listened attentively and responded well to instructions given,” Coach Buckle praised. This focus and dedication lead them to finish the season with an overall record of 11-4 – the best JV record in the school's history – and to win the ACIS post-season tournament.
That dedication also helped them bond as a team. According to captain Olivia B. ’22, “Determination and teamwork is what really bonded the team. The constant support from our teammates was a really important aspect of what made this team successful. If someone missed a ball or made a bad play, we would all come together and support each other, and get right back into the game as though nothing happened,” she remembers. “But we also had to have fun or else we would lose our winning drive.”
Team sports at Grace are about more than enhancing skill and winning and focus primarily on working together and teaching life lessons through teamwork. Winning, of course, is an added bonus, but learning to support one another and coming together as a team is the real goal of each season. Olivia B. ’22 describes it best, “It felt great to win the A.C.I.S. tournament, but each win showed how much we had grown as a team and the strength of our team at the end of the season.”