Three’s a party: Middle school volleyball hosts range of skill levels amongst teams


Photo credit: Kim Smith

The sixth grade team huddles during one of their home games. When sixth grader Caroline Benabib had to describe her experience she said it was “awesome.” “Because everyone on the team is really nice and really fun,” Benabib said. “And the coach is really nice and practices are really fun.”

By Grace Doyle, Sports Editor

From first — time volleyball players to club veterans, the middle school volleyball program encompasses all types of Archer players throughout the three grades. Starting with the sixth grade, the team is split up into a practice and competition team. The seventh grade has an A and B team, while the eighth grade is only one team comprised of 11 players. While the skill levels range, the throughline of all the teams is the support teammates show one another.

Sixth grader Carolina Benabib is has been playing volleyball since fourth grade. Transitioning into Archer, she made it on the competition team, who are currently undefeated and ranked #1 in the Pacific Basin League (PBL). When talking about the team culture, she highlighted how supportive her teammates are.

When people sub out we always cheer our teammates on, and we make cheers from the sidelines, and give people high fives,” Benabib said. “And we’ll also cheer on the other team.”

Sophie Shafipou is a seventh grader on the volleyball team. She plays for the A team. Shafipou echoed Benabib’s sentiment of support while also discussing how she handles certain moments of pressure while playing.

“I feel like it’s a really like good atmosphere with people cheering you on,” Shafipou said. “But at the same time, internally, you can feel a little bit nervous or scared. But I feel like when I’m nervous I try to work harder.”

Delilah Davis is a member of the eighth grade volleyball team. With about six years of experience under her belt, she highlighted the range of experience on her Archer team and the improvement she has seen.

“Everybody’s really nice … I’ve made a lot of friends on my volleyball team. And I think everybody has a little bit of a connection towards volleyball,” Davis said. “Some of us have played for a long time. Some of us are brand new to volleyball, and some have just never played before. And compared to our first game, we’ve gotten so much better collectively working as a team, which is amazing.”

Led by coach Ellina Domnidou, the seventh grade volleyball team is currently ranked #2 in the PBL. They have practice Monday through Thursday and usually have a game once a week. Shafipou said the wins excite the team and boost confidence.

“I like when you play against other schools because I feel like when you win it boosts your confidence a lot,” Shafipou said. “And then it’s a reflection of what you’ve done in practice.”

Photo Credit: Grace Doyle                                                                                All of the middle school teams practice on the sports court after school. The teams are split up by grade and have different configurations within each team. "Since I've been on the volleyball team I've gotten closer to some girls and I've made a lot of friends," Carolina Benabib said.
All of the middle school teams practice on the sports court after school. The teams are split up by grade and have different configurations within each team. “Since I’ve been on the volleyball team I’ve gotten closer to some girls and I’ve made a lot of friends,” Carolina Benabib said. (Photo credit: Grace Doyle)

The eighth grade team was 4-2 in their league games and lost in the first round of playoffs. Regarding the environment of games, Davis spoke to the differences of playing aways games as opposed to at home.

“It’s really loud, especially if you’re inside, coaches are always yelling at you, and everybody’s clapping and cheering and there’s always something going on,” Davis said. “And it’s usually really loud, but outside when we play at Archer it’s really nice. We have the wind, and it’s an outdoor environment.”

Davis said opportunities born on the court carry into her own life at Archer. She appreciates the chance to continue relationships formed in the classroom onto the court.

“I like being able to practice with girls that I know … and … being in class with them,” Davis said. “Also, getting to play with them on the court and getting to know them better throughout academics is really nice.”

Benabib feels similar about the relationships she’s been able to form with her teammates and classmates. When describing her experience in one word she said that the sixth grade team is “awesome.”

Overall, the middle school volleyball experience is one of unity.

“Even though it split into competition team and practice team,” Benabib said. “We’re all still one team.”