From Highs to Lows and Everything in Between

Middle School Volleyball Perseveres Through Physical and Emotional Pain at KISAC


Becky, Leewen, and Bonnie come together during an exciting game. Photo by Elizabeth Ryu.

Ricky Jang and Catherine Park

With their first appearance at the KISAC (Korean International School Activities Conference) tournament since 2019, the middle school volleyball teams returned to demonstrate their skills in the competition this February. The 8th grade boys flew to Jeju to play at Saint Johnsbury Academy (SJA) while both girls’ varsity and JV teams drove down to Busan for their games. 

Elena settles down as she gets prepared for the serve. Photo by Elizabeth Ryu.    

Players stepped it up in an attempt to bring victory home. Yet, bitter challenges set them back from the championship. The boys ended the tournament in 5th place, with 5 wins and 1 loss and a journey to the quarterfinals, and the girls marked their weekend at 3-4 in the varsity division and 6-2 in junior varsity. 

Mr. Balint, boys’ coach, said, “Going into the tournament, I think us, as a school, we didn’t know exactly where the middle school teams in Jeju were. To be honest, I wouldn’t have been too shocked if we had gotten there and got destroyed by every team.”

The Flyover could not send a photographer to Jeju, nonetheless the boys were amped up. Photo by Mrs. Cameron.

Despite the concerns, our boys were much stronger than expected. Coach Balint added, “The fact that we went in day 1 and went undefeated and we beat the team that eventually took the tournament is huge news. It’s really cool.” Unfortunately, their triumph did not prevail. Inching towards the finals they suffered an unexpected defeat against the 8th seed team BFS (Busan Foreign School). 

Manuel, a starter for the boys, said, “I was very emotional because the way we lost was our fault. Nothing on the way we played, but more on our decisions. I see it as we underestimated BFS. The mental problem that happened was that in SKAC we beat BFS quite easily, so we saw it as an easy game just like other weak teams.” 

Ginna sets with perfect form and bumps up the ball. Photo by Elizabeth Ryu.

Although the boys took a set, they weren’t able to win the final game. Manuel pinpointed the reason for the loss, “Some of our mental [states] were getting lower and we were getting worried because, of course, of the way we were playing. Because of that, every single player in the team was getting worried and getting very stressed. We couldn’t do it because all of our mentalities were so low. Especially, with my experience, I remember me just being worried. Nothing was in my mind about winning.”

Manuel went on, “It’s all about mentality. It’s nothing about how you play, it’s about how you feel while you’re playing. Even if you’re down ten or up ten, you should be the loudest in the group. Even if you’re down 24 to 1 or up 24 to 1, we should still be the loudest in the whole entire gym getting our mental strength up.” The boys lamented their close loss and promised a better fight for victory in the future. 

Girls get emotional after their well-deserved victory. Photo by Elizabeth Ryu.

For the girls, head coach Mr. Bergan joined forces with Mrs. Rouse and student coaches Lisa and Sarah, to help the players in two different Busan locations: BFS and ISB (International School of Busan). The girls earned amazing wins throughout the two days, but also faced surprises in their matches. 

Bonnie rises high for the kill block. Photo by Elizabeth Ryu.

Regarding the varsity bracket, Shannon said, “They were in a really bad condition. Mr. Bergan had to call a timeout because Jayden was really panicking and Leewen was in a bad condition. Jio got hit in the head from a serve and she got a mild concussion. She couldn’t walk properly, so Mr. Bergan stopped her from playing.”

Leewen delivers the perfect set for her teammate. Photo by Elizabeth Ryu.

Even though the abrupt injuries brought spirits down, the girl’s gave their fullest to overcome obstacles. Shannon added, “We had to change Becky from libero to a normal player, and it was complicated. She served 5 aces in a row when we won so that was really cool.” A libero is a designated defense specialist. Each team has one on the court. A libero can’t attack, including serves and spikes, and wears a different colored jersey to represent their role.

At the same time, the JV team fought at ISB with all their might. The girls overcame exhaustion after a full day with the largest number of games out of all teams. Student coach Sarah said, “After the first day, Agnew, a starter for the JV team, reflected on how much they improved and they would be better for tomorrow – the 2nd day of the tournament. They certainly had a meaningful day.” 

Yul smacks the ball as she strives for a service ace. Photo by Elizabeth Ryu.

With lessons learned and high hopes for the future, the boys and girls seek revenge in the SKAC finals coming up on February 24th.