Varsity volleyball wraps up season with ‘victories,’ ‘friendship’

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  • The varsity volleyball team huddles during the timeout while Coach Gera discusses their next play. Co-captain Cydney Johnson (’20), who wasn’t present for this game, commented on the team’s camaraderie. “Our team is very connected,” Johnson said. “I see us as one big family.”

    Photo credit: Rebecca Aranda
  • The varsity volleyball team is celebrating junior Vaughan Anoa’i’s kill, which later contributed to their win against Buckley School. To support the 2020-2021 remote learning atmosphere, the Archer Athletics department is implementing a new virtual program. This strength and conditioning program will run through the TeamBuildR app, an online platform for coaches and trainers.

    Photo credit: Rebecca Aranda
  • The varsity volleyball team poses for a group shot after a victory against the Buckley school on senior night. The team won 3-0.

    Photo credit: Rebecca Aranda
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Varsity volleyball began its intensive training in mid-July, though the season did not officially begin until September. The season lasted about three months but concluded on Nov. 12, when the Panthers lost to Maranatha Christian High School during the first round of state playoffs.

“The summers were definitely intense, but we were just trying to use all the time we had because we had such a short window before the games started,” captain Andrea Campos said. “We really had to crunch in practice and work on different skills if we wanted to have a chance at winning this season.”

Varsity volleyball moved up to Division 5 and won the Liberty League Championship, causing them to move onto the California Interscholastic Federation [CIF]. Varsity volleyball came very close to CIF finals this year but fell short at the semi-final game. Despite the loss, the team was given a second opportunity by qualifying for state.

“Our main goal was winning CIF, which we did not do this year — which was sad — but I think that we really did give 100% throughout the whole season. I know that the whole team was doing their best, and we were all trying our hardest to achieve our goal of winning,” senior Amelia Nathanson said.

Although varsity volleyball did not reach all of their goals, head coach Lainey Gera said she witnessed much “growth” within the volleyball team throughout the season.

“It’s tough because you always want to keep challenging yourself, so three years ago when we won and then last year moving up a division and making it to the finals was obviously amazing for this group,” Gera said. “Given the movement of our success, it was great. I mean, the girls accomplished a lot, and we were challenged a lot, and I think we did a really good job.”

Determination and hard work can get you anywhere, don’t be afraid to just go for it.

— Lainey Gera, Coach

Other than winning CIF finals, the team also had a goal to become more unified and in sync with one another.

“We did many more bonding activities outside of practice which I think helped us grow stronger as a team. One of the times we all went and watched the middle school team — they just had a final game, so we all went after our practice to go cheer them on and support the new eighth graders,” Nathanson said.

Campos stated that one of her individual goals as a captain was to be a “better leader.” In the end, she feels that her goal contributed to the team’s strength and success.

“Something I had to work on was accountability and holding everyone on my team up to higher standards and calling them out in practices or games,” Campos said. “That is a part of being a leader, and it is tough, but I think because of that, we improved a lot this year, and I think it benefited our team.”

Gera reiterated the importance of leadership by emphasizing that it does not just depend on one person; it requires the whole team to work together and help motivate one another.

“Leadership does not always have to come from the captains, and that is something that I preach to the girls all the time,” Gera said. “You can be an emotional leader, you can be the leader that calms everyone down, and then you can also lead by example, so between those three things those two do a really good job at that.”

This year, the juniors have been “big leaders” the captains can “depend on,” Nathanson said. She has faith that they will do a “great job” next year and act as role models for the younger girls.

“There are enough that are returning; the eighth-grade class went to the PBL finals, and although they lost, that eight-grade group coming in has a bright future…I think there is a lot of growth and hope for this program moving forward,” Coach Gera said.

When varsity captain Andrea Campos watched the middle school game, she noticed a libero and a setter who will “help a lot next year.” Although she is “hopeful” for the new players coming onto the team next year, she does not know who will be coaching.

“Coach Gera is not coming back to Archer next year, which is going to be a huge loss for this team because she made a huge impact on this program,” Campos said. “But I think there is still hope within the players, and hopefully they can continue to make history in the future.”