(Pre)Teen Spirit: Middle school volleyball, cross country, swim teams wrap up fall seasons

For Archer’s middle-schoolers, the end of first semester marks the end of their first experience in Archer athletics or their last season before transitioning into JV and varsity teams. Throughout the first few months of school, the Oracle covered the “growth,” “memories” and “community” that middle school athletes said they experienced.

Middle School Volleyball

Photo credit: Kim Smith
The Purple MS Volleyball Team, comprised solely of eighth graders, gathers in a huddle with Coach Charles Schmittdiel. The Purple team won all but one of their six games. Photo courtesy of Archer Athletics’ Instagram.

This year’s tryouts turned out 27 prospective players, a large number for a team that only has six players on the court at a time. This prompted Archer athletics to split the middle school into two: a purple team for the sixth and seventh grades and a green team for the eighth grade.

“Half of the team, it’s their first year,” seventh grader and purple team captain Callie Wicklander said. “But I feel like they learned a lot and got a lot better.”

Over the course of the season, the green team had seven wins and two losses. The purple team had nine wins and one loss.

“I think we’ve been doing pretty well in the games,” eighth grader and green team captain Gemma Larbalestier said. “Some of the new players have been stepping up during the games and actually scoring a lot of points. And everyone’s really supportive.”

Although the team made it all the way to the playoffs, their goals were more focused on personal growth than winning.

“We’re all at different places,” Larbalestier said. “[We want] everyone to get better in their own way; just do our best, … to do what we can.”

Middle School Cross Country

Photo credit: Kim Smith
Members of the MS Cross Country team pose with their coach, Crystal Manning. The team has never come lower than third place collectively, and some team members have met or surpassed their personal records. Photo courtesy of Archer Athletics’ Instagram.

The middle school’s cross country team never placed lower than third place collectively this season. Given the tallies of their points, they improved with every meet. The team moved from 20 points behind the top position in their first meet on September 17 to five points behind three weeks later on October 4.

“For most of us, it was our first time running; I think we did so well for just doing it for the first time,” eighth grader Julissa Cach said. “I’m really glad to have our coaches. [They] really push [us], and get us to work harder than before. … They’re always giving us advice.” 

Three members of the team, Maya Alvarez ’24, Cach and Kate Hanney ’25, surpassed their personal records by more than ten seconds, and Gabriella Specchierla ’25 matched hers.

“I felt like it was an accomplishment, … especially because I was sick during that time,” Cach said. “We were all proud of it. [But] it doesn’t matter what our time is or what place we’re in. We’ll just have fun, and we’ll try our best.”

Cross country ran their final league meet, and their season has now ended.

“I was really sad when it ended, because I had already grown attached to cross country,” Cach said. “I want to keep on doing it.”

Middle School Swim

Photo credit: Kim Smith
Head Coach Stephanie Ferri advises the Middle School swimmers. The swim team was undefeated this season. Photo courtesy of Archer Athletics’ Instagram.

The middle school’s swim team won first place in every meet despite not having a pool on campus. In their Pacific Basin League [PBL] meet on Oct. 17, the team won all but one race.

“When we come to practice, we don’t mess around,” eighth grade swimmer Stephanie Harrison said. “We change, we get to it. … Our coaches did a lot of things focusing on technique, rather than just repeating the action of swimming, so that we can get faster.”

The team received support from their teachers Jillian Kearney and Lauren Sekula in their fifth meet at Brentwood school, where they again came in first place.

“It’s just this sort of beautiful little community, and that’s why I think family just fits so perfectly to describe the team,” Harrison said.

Given their performance, the middle school swim team advanced to the PBL Finals. However, this meet was cancelled due to the Getty Fire.

“I was very upset about [the cancellation] because [the finals] are something we work towards,” middle school swim coach Stephanie Ferri said. “But we made the best of it. We ended in a [breathing] circle and we shared our favorite moments from the season.”