Sharks Girls Volleyball Wins League Championship

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Josie Bassett digs the ball in an amazing play. Pictured, from left: No. 10  Haiden Bohm, No. 13 Frenchie Gettings, No. 5 Ceylon Gilbert and No. 11 Sophie Basset

For the first time since 2007, the Malibu High School girls varsity indoor volleyball team has won the league championship, ending the season with an 11-1 record. The 10-member team was led to victory by new head coach Jenna Pierson, and consists of two seniors, seven juniors and two freshmen. Since the majority of the winning team will be returning to play again next year, expectations are high for the winning streak to continue in 2017.

This was Pierson’s first season as head coach, after three years of assistant and JV coaching roles. The last time the volleyball team won the league championship, in 2007: Pierson was a senior at MHS and named most valuable player (MVP) of the girls’ varsity volleyball team. This time around, she led the team to victory as their coach. Pierson is now the only person at MHS ever to have won the league as both a player and a coach.

When asked about her winning coaching techniques, she said the secret is to have fun. 

“If it was hot, we did our workouts in the swimming pool. Sometimes we went to the beach and practiced by playing beach volleyball instead of staying indoors,” Pierson said, adding, “We have rituals before every game where we go totally crazy.

“I still yell, and they take me seriously, but I try never to use the negative. I’ll say, ‘Next time, do this or this,’” Pierson explained. “The girls don’t take well to screaming.”

The girls varsity volleyball team begins its season with summer tryouts. 

“We had over 35 girls come and try out for the 10 spots on the varsity team, which was almost unheard of,” Pierson said. “There was huge interest from the incoming freshmen.”

Practice begins at the end of July, and regular league games go from the last week of August to the last week of October. Any playoff games come after that. 

Senior player Pria Sundher was named this year’s MVP. “She pumped up the entire team,” Pierson said. The MVP award goes to a player on the league’s winning team who has been nominated by the coach. 

“Our team was really well-bonded this year, and I think we won because of that,” Sundher said. “I think the team really connected well and it was a good atmosphere.”

Having Pierson come in as head coach for the first time was “an easy transition, because a lot of the girls have known her all through high school,” Sundher said. “She never makes us feel pressured or down on ourselves. She was really motivating.”

Sundher first started playing beach volleyball in fourth grade at beach camp, then switched to indoor volleyball in sixth grade. 

Junior Halle Detrixhe was also enthusiastic about playing on a winning team. 

“It was amazing — I’ve never been on a team that won like we did, and it was a great experience overall,” Detrixhe said. She’s been playing volleyball for years, starting off in club, and also had a sister who played. 

Although cautiously optimistic, Detrixhe said, “I think there’s a good possibility we could be undefeated next year.”

Pierson echoed some of the same sentiments as her players. 

“I really track my girls, and this season they worked so well together, I didn’t have to yell from the sidelines,” Pierson reflected. “They’re a family, they know each other, and they had each others’ backs,” she said.

She credits Carlos Gray, the former volleyball coach at Malibu, with being her mentor. He now coaches girls and boys volleyball in the Palisades.