Girls Volleyball Team Storm Past Competition En Route to State Title

October, 2023
Matthew Chen

Princeton High School’s volleyball program has historically been successful in past seasons, claiming the 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 league titles in succession. This season’s team is no exception, boasting an unmatched 23–1 record, conceding only five sets across all 24 games played — a feat that hasn’t been achieved in over ten years. Now ranked second in the state, the Little Tigers continue their charge as they make their way further into the season, shooting for not only the conference title, but the state championship as well.

Last year’s season saw many of the current key varsity players as underclassmen, who have since become sophomores and juniors. But despite their younger age, these talented athletes set themselves apart from the rest.

“Last year, we had mostly freshmen and sophomores starting on a varsity team playing much older squads,” said the girls volleyball varsity assistant coach Kate Dineen. “They have just come into their own more [this year], feel more comfortable playing together, [and] have grown stronger because they train year-round, so they’re just a little more powerful.”

While the younger age range of these players may at first seem to be a disadvantage, the reality is that their team chemistry built throughout past years serves as a crucial part to their dominance this season.

“We have such a young team … and we have so much potential underneath us, especially all the sophomores,” said Pearl Agel ’25, a starting libero and co-captain of the varsity team. “I feel like it's really helped us, especially from last year, knowing that we have a lot to build off on, and so that's helping us improve each year, so we're hoping to get farther.”

While the team has demonstrated their ability to control every game they play, the results don’t just happen without hard work. Even during off-season months, many of the athletes go back to their club teams and continue training year-round, preparing themselves for the upcoming season for the PHS team as well as for their own teams outside of school. This preparation that these individuals dedicate themselves to ensures that their skills and coordination are sharpened for the following season.

“We have a lot of players on our varsity squad this year who play year round both indoor and beach,” said Dineen. “The beach skills in particular translate really well to indoor because they're able to find spots to put the ball and end rallies at really opportune times … and they really act together as one cohesive unit.”

Beyond just the technical skills gained through off-season training, club teams also give players the chance to bond and build relationships with one another, creating an even stronger link within this already close-knit team.

“A lot of the girls on the team I've played with since I was 12. We used to be on the same club team, so I really have strong relationships with them because I've known them for so long,” said co-captain Lois Matsukawa ’25, starting setter on the varsity team. “[Playing on club teams] is a really big factor in our success this year and last year.”

There’s no doubt that the team puts in a tremendous amount of work and effort on the court during their games, but what’s often overlooked is the effort put in by team members off the court, which can boost the team’s performance just as much.

“Pearl [and I] really made it a big deal to do the psyches this year, because it's really fun and we even got JV to do it too. … I think that people just enjoyed it a lot,” said Matsukawa. “I just think it just helps our team bond more and just stay more connected.”

On paper, the Little Tigers seem to have little if any problems at all, beating every opponent they come across. However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for this team.

“We're learning to trust each other, which is kind of a big issue that we're getting through over this season,” said Agel. “There have been some internal struggles [between] teammates and disagreements . . . but over the season, we’ve kind of worked it out, which has also helped us move stronger.”

The team, like most teams do, have experienced and overcome certain difficulties that they’ve come across as a group. However, there are certain pieces to the puzzle that they can’t control, one of which being the tight and demanding schedule.

“One of the biggest challenges that we’ve faced this season has been just the rigor of our schedule,” says Charlotte Woods ’26, one of the three starting hitters on the varsity roster. “We've been playing a lot of games back to back, which means we don't get a ton of time to practice new things . . . [but it] makes us better players in that I feel our stamina has been a lot higher and we get a lot of in-game experience, which helps . . . in future games that we play later on.”

In spite of these adversities, the results that the team produces speak for themselves. The team has not only topped their group, but climbed to second in the state all within just over a month. With a near perfect record and an unstoppable group, the team heads further into the season with high hopes and expectations.

“The hope and expectation for us is that we continue to try and win as many games as possible, and hopefully make it to and past the same point that we made it last year,” says Woods. “We're hoping just to do as well as we can and bring home some records for the school and for our program that really just reflect all the work that's gone into our season.”