The varsity volleyball team celebrates after winning a point on Senior Night against Buckingham Charter. This was the Cavaliers' final regular-season game, which they won to secure a playoff spot. (Photo by Jacqueline Chao)
Despite having ‘grueling’ tournament schedules, student-athletes play on various volleyball clubs
Most Country Day teams play in Division VI, the second-lowest division. For more competition, many student-athletes look outside of school.
While the school’s girls volleyball season is over, the club season is just beginning. And many student-athletes are jumping at the opportunity to continue playing volleyball.
“(Volleyball) is my favorite sport to play,” sophomore Naomi Cohen said. “Last year when the school season ended, I was sad and really wanted to play more, so I looked into clubs.”
Cohen is starting her second year at Sacramento Performance Volleyball Club (SPVC).
Along with Cohen, sophomores Elise Sommerhaug and Erin Wilson play at SPVC, though Sommerhaug said she hasn’t always.
“I started out with the North California Volleyball Club (NCVC), but sadly, it went out of business,” Sommerhaug said.
NCVC’s girls’ teams are under new management and have changed their name to Rage Sacramento.
However, the boys’ teams still train under the NCVC name. Players include junior Aaron Graves, who has played at NCVC for two years.
The girls’ management change did affect junior Jewel Turner, who will be starting her first season at Rage Sacramento this year.
But Rage Sacramento isn’t Turner’s first club.
“I started club volleyball freshman year after I played JV volleyball at school,” Turner said. “I played for NCVC, which is like your local team.
“After (my first year), I got a trainer and decided to do volleyball for real.”
Turner said her parents have always wanted her to do a sport in college, and volleyball felt right for her.
“Previously I had done gymnastics, so my parents always assumed I would do that in college,” Turner said. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted, but when volleyball came along, I realized I liked it — and I was pretty good at it.”
According to Turner, playing club is very important when it comes to playing at a college level.
“You get more exposure through club,” Turner said.
“I think if you really wanted to, college coaches could come to your high school games, but high school seasons are really short, and Division VI isn’t really competitive at a collegiate level.”
Playing club also allowed Turner to play to her specific volleyball strengths.
“My coach is having speciality practices because I usually play middle, and I’m 5 feet, 8 inches, which is pretty short for the position,” Turner said.
“Since I have more of a hybrid position between an opposite (left side of the net) and a middle, we have speciality practices that are going to be on a third day of the week, either on a Saturday or Sunday.”
Senior Bella Mathisen, who practiced for a year with a club team in fourth grade, also said she benefited from more specialized training at clubs.
“My mom didn’t want me to try out because the youngest team was for 12-year-olds, and I was only 9, so I just trained with them,” Mathisen said. “Then, next year, I bet my mom I’d be able to make the team, so I tried out — and I did!”
Mathisen said she stopped playing junior year so she could spend more time on art.
But club volleyball isn’t just a fun way for students to pursue their love of volleyball.
According to senior Tori Van Vleck, who stopped playing club in her junior year, club volleyball is also an “insane” amount of work.
“It was getting really hard with school because we had one away tournament (California Kickoff) in January, which came the week before winter finals, and then there was another tournament that came right before spring finals, too,” Van Vleck said.
“So pretty much every year I either had one or the other or both. It became really hard because I had to study in between games, and I would do worse on finals.”
“When you’re in away tournaments all weekend Saturday to Sunday night, those can be kind of grueling,” Turner said.
But even the regular practice schedule can be time consuming, according to Turner and Graves.
“(Playing club) absolutely affects my schoolwork,” Turner said. “Practices are usually from 7 to 9. I’m able to get a lot of homework done before by using my free periods, but if I don’t get it done before 6 p.m. I probably only resume around 9:30 or 10.”
Graves, who played a school sport and club at the same time, agreed.
“On days where I had soccer and volleyball, I had to get all of my work done during school,” he said. “I had to work during my free periods and even during lunch.”
The grueling schedule wasn’t Van Vleck’s only complaint about club volleyball, though.
“My last year (at Infinity Volleyball Club), my coach was really intense,” Van Vleck said. “He would yell at us a lot and really visibly express his disappointment, even if we did well.”
Van Vleck said this was very different from her experience at Country Day and even from previous years playing club.
“(Country Day coach Jason Kreps) really cares about us all, and while he cares that we do well, he also wants us to be happy,” Van Vleck said.
Van Vleck’s experience was so bad that she lost a lot of the joy she had playing volleyball.
“The intense coach mixed with the schoolwork almost made me lose my love of volleyball,” she said.
“But then coming back to school volleyball, especially this past year, I feel like I really loved it again.”