Twelve determined girls at the Queen Anne Community Center have managed to hold a 6-0 winning streak during a season that almost didn’t happen. The volleyball team, the Queen Annes, have been successful with hard work and a team motto of “be scrappy.”
From friends to a team
Girls ages 12 and 13 from McClure Middle School first started learning about volleyball when they hung out after school at the community center. When they began showing an interest, Ryan Axford, who works at the center, started teaching them drills.
Axford’s knowledge of the sport comes from playing it for 13 years. It didn’t take long before the girls wanted to form a team. When they got enough people together, they asked him to coach.
“The community center is pretty much part of our school. We all go there, and one day my friends were talking about a volleyball team, so I joined them,” Briana Espinoza said.
The Queen Anne Community Center got them into a league, but a different one than they would normally play in because of the late formation of the team; now they play at Jefferson and Rainier community centers.
Around Central and North Seattle, there isn’t a lot of knowledge about volleyball, according to Axford. There are girls who want to play but can’t get a team together. Luckily for the Queen Annes, their community center was able to get them into a league and Axford agreed to coach.
The girls had to forfeit their first game because they hadn’t had a practice yet. They got the call that they were in the league on Friday, and their first game was scheduled for the following Monday.
Despite the lack of practice time, the team has pulled together and won all six of their games thus far. Their hard work and passion for the sport have brought them to where they are now.
“At this age, their zest and yearning is great. They really come to practice and want to get better every day,” Axford said.
The girls’ strong work ethic is apparent. They practice twice a week, with games about once a week; the time they put in reflects their success. According to Axford, the girls come to practice 30 minutes early and stay 15 minutes late each day.
They’ve reached the point where they really want to get every ball up and continue to keep that “scrappy” mentality, he added.
Team members’ skill levels range from beginning to intermediate. Axford works with the girls on the basics of volleyball: passing, setting and hitting. From there, the goal is to focus on more of an offensive play.
To enhance practices, the Queen Annes scrimmage with a group of boys and girls from Waldorf High School in Queen Anne. The high school students aren’t able to have a team at their school, so it’s a time when they can engage in the sport they love as well.
Players from Waldorf exemplify what a higher level of volleyball looks like for the Queen Annes. Their ability to play their best against older and more experienced opponents is a testament to staying true to their team motto; even the Waldorf coach noticed this.
“That was a proud coach moment for me,” Axford said. “The coach of the Waldorf team said we looked really scrappy. That’s been our motto all along, so it’s great people notice.”
During one game against the high school team, Queen Annes team captain Elena Spasova passed one of the hardest hits Axford has seen from a high school player. It was a great moment for the Queen Annes, and people in the gym and members of the community center were there cheering them on.
Leadership on the team has been a way for the girls to learn about things both on and off the court. It empowers them to work with Axford for guidance but make decisions for the team as a group. Volleyball gives them more than just a fun time, it teaches real life skills and lessons, he said.
If there were more focus on volleyball in community centers, the sport and benefits that come with it could grow, Axford said. With more attention, opportunities for girls in the area to get a team together would escalate.
In addition to being fun, Axford said that sports are a great outlet for these teenagers during after-school time.
Trying out for more
In the next couple of weeks, there will be tryouts for club teams in the area. A few girls from the Queen Annes team are interested in pursuing volleyball, so Axford encourages them to go to the tryouts. It’s a perfect time to develop skills, and see how other girls their age play, he said.
Last Thursday, Nov. 1, the Queen Annes won their latest match. The girls were relieved because they were able to keep their undefeated record, despite the fact their opponent is one of the harder teams they’ve played, according to team member Alexis Blokker.
The team will wrap up the season during its jamboree on Nov. 17.
Espinoza said that their success comes down to three central things: “We work hard, focus on having a positive attitude, and have a really great coach.”