How This Volleyball Duo Defends to Contend

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Issue 1, Volume 112

By Aidan Look 

Cover Image


Name: Jenny Liu

Grade: 12

Height: 5’4”

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Brown

DOB: 01/07/2004


Name: Leila Ferguson

Grade: 12

Height: 5’9”

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Blue

DOB: 04/29/2004

1. How long have you been on the Stuyvesant volleyball team?

J: We both had experience going into Stuyvesant, [...] started out on JV freshman year, and joined the varsity team sophomore year. I’ve played with a rec team since freshman year.

L: In addition to playing for Stuy, I’ve played with a club team called Brooklyn Elite since eighth grade.

2. What position do you play, and what skills/strengths are involved?

J: I play libero, which is the main defensive position. Skills needed include communication with other players on court, consistency with passing, a certain level of athleticism to, for example, chase after the ball out of the court, and good court awareness. For example, I make sure not to jump over the 10-feet line when hitting because liberos cannot do that. Occasionally, I am substituted for an outside or opposite.

L: I’m a middle blocker, the hitting position in the middle. We do the most blocking out of anyone on the court, so we have to be able to jump high and track the ball. For this position, you also need court awareness because you need to make sure that you’re not in the way of passers and hitters.

J: Middle blocker and Libero go together quite well!

L: They’re at the same position on the court. A libero fills in for the middle when they go back row.

3. What inspired you to join the volleyball team? What motivates you to continue to lead this team?

L: I started playing after I noticed a travel team practicing at my middle school. I tried out for the team, and I made it (which was a surprise as I was not very athletic at first). I stuck with volleyball because I loved the sport and feel that girls’ sports teams are really empowering. Teams provide a welcoming space.

J: I started in middle school at Lab Middle School. Funnily enough, a lot of the previous members of the Stuyvesant volleyball team started at Lab, so I thought joining the team here would be a nice progression. Even before coming to Stuy, I knew I would want to play for the team. I think it has turned out well. The nice thing about playing for your school team is that it becomes a part of your school experience beyond academics [...] Being on a sports team makes your eyes a bit more open to being physically fit and fitness culture in general. It develops a good routine beyond just volleyball practice.

4. From your years on the volleyball team, do you have a most memorable moment/experience?

L: Most memorable moments are not always on the court. Even when you win a really competitive game, most of the time you end up forgetting the details. Volleyball lets you make friends and meet new people.

J: Our first scrimmage of the season was against Hunter, who was very competitive with us, and we actually won. There was also one week in our sophomore year when we had a practice, game, practice, game, practice, and [...] tournament. It was an insane week. I don’t remember the exact plays of these games, like Leila mentioned. You just remember that you won and the good feeling that comes with celebrating with your teammates […] Also, this is just a funny thing, but we’re also the only team at any game that does homework on the sidelines when we’re not playing.

5. What is your strategy for constantly improving yourself (specific routines, drills, etc.)?

L: Keeping yourself fit and improving your skills are two different things. I do yoga to keep myself fit. To improve your skills, I would say do the reps and really think about the advice given by coaches.

J: I also picked up yoga earlier this year, not to get particularly good at yoga but for stress management. I do go to the gym occasionally, and I think that’s something I picked up as a result of playing volleyball and realizing that it could help me become stronger. From playing volleyball, I’ve also learned that I can work on specific things by doing certain workouts outside of the gym. For example, because volleyball involves so much jumping and I’m a shorter person, I do plyometrics. On a more general note, I have incorporated more sleeping into my routine because sleeping at 2:00 a.m. isn’t cool anymore.

6. What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced while on the volleyball team?

L: Playing through COVID, especially last year when our season coincided with the boys’ season. Mr. Choubaralian chose to coach the boys instead of the girls, and Mx. Stuzin was our coach. Although they didn’t have much experience, having them as a coach was very fun and a great experience.

J: A specific skill that I’ve struggled with and continue to struggle with a bit is my serving. It is a weaker area compared to other areas of mine. I also think there’s a sense of imposter syndrome with being captain: if I’m not amazing in all of these areas, am I fit to be captain? I think being a captain is a matter of always having a good mentality. If I make a mistake, it’s fine and I will correct it next time. Recognizing my weakness in serving motivates me to work harder and humbles me as a player.

7. How do you think the Stuyvesant volleyball team has changed you as a player?

J: If it weren’t for school teams, I would not be here and have my skills improved the way they [have been]. I don’t play club because it’s financially unfeasible for my parents. Being able to play on the school team, getting an opportunity to practice here, and now serving as a captain [have] changed me, and I’m very grateful for this opportunity. With tryouts coming out, I’ve had people reach out to me really scared because they’ve never played club before. I think telling them that I’ve never played club before might comfort them. There are also [amazing] players on our team [who] have never played club before.

L: School volleyball is very different from club because there is a captain (clubs usually have a full-time coach). As a captain, you learn how to navigate this dynamic of being friends with people on the team but also having to be an authority figure. It’s not something that I’ve had to deal with before (because I’ve never been a captain of a sports team before). You have to be hard on yourself and have self-discipline.

8. In that sense, how do you think your experience this year as a captain will be different from your three previous years?

L: You have to be a lot more organized and on top of everything. There will be a lot of communication, whether that’s with Mr. Choubaralian or your teammates. When I was a player on varsity in sophomore year, I remember the captain and I had a big sister-little sister dynamic because she was always reminding me of things. As a captain, I will have to fulfill a role that I don’t have much experience with, and I will need to be responsible.

J: Adding on, you have to show up a lot more. When we’re leading a cool-down at the end, you can tell everyone is not super into it, but you have to do it to reinforce it. Last year, we didn’t have an official season, so this year is more about rebuilding a team culture because a lot of people here are new because we didn’t have tryouts last year. Having everyone acclimate to playing more competitively will be a responsibility for us.

9. Funniest teammate?

L: Isabel Leka (’21)

J: Venus Wan (’23)

10. Favorite drink?

L: Iced cappuccino

J: Bubble tea

11. Favorite food?

L: Cake in general

J: Ben and Jerry’s Americone Dream and poke bowls

12. Favorite class?

L: Watercolor Painting with Ms. Leo and Global History with Mr. Badgley

J: Ms. Maggio’s Urban Ecology and AP Environmental Science with Mr. Citron

13. Favorite movie/TV show?

L: “The Office”

J: “BoJack Horseman” and “American Splendor”

14. Hobbies besides sports?

L: Depop

J: Reading, student newspaper