The Volleyball Girls of ACP: Their Story of Adversity


Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Bishop

Year after year, the ACP Girls’ volleyball team has showed skill and determination in their games and practices. Being on the team for three years now, I have learned so much about myself and my teammates on the court. Our 2020year has been a difficult year for us all. With the pandemic, it is hard to find motivation to do anything these days. Despite all that has happened, the varsity, JV-A, and JV-B team has pushed through all their troubles and hardships and found comfort in their favorite sport: volleyball. Last Tuesday, the varsity team won one of their biggest game of the entire season. The court buzzed with positive energy, and the stands were filled with loud supporters (thank you to ACP football for your amazing cheers). We lost the first two sets of the game but decided to continue fighting. Standing on the court with my favorite girls felt so amazing. One thought swept through my mind in the moment: after everything we’ve been through, we are still here. We won the last three sets of the game, pulling a victory for ACP against Fountain Hills. I interviewed Shelby Blixt, Wynter Ray, and Ellis Jimenez from my varsity volleyball team about their story of adversity and determination.

Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Bishop

Q: If you could describe this season in one word, what would it be and why? 

Shelby Blixt: If I could describe the season in one word, it would be unpredictable. We’ve been through so much unpredictability from the pandemic to losing some stuff, but the team has managed to overcome adversity and persevere.

Ellis Jimenez: Challenging. It’s been a tough but worthwhile season so far because of the new region we’ve been given and so many ups and downs that have affected our team. But that’s how adversity works. You have to have challenges to overcome or else you aren’t growing and learning to your full potential. While this season has been difficult in a myriad of ways, I feel like we’ve grown tremendously as a team.

Wynter Ray: The word I would choose to describe this season is persistent. This year, our team has overcome many obstacles, and we are stronger because of it.

Q: What is one quote you live by? 

Shelby Blixt: A quote I live by is “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” It’s important to remember that you can’t please everyone no matter how good of a person you are, and that’s okay.

Ellis Jimenez: One of my favorite life quotes is “What if the worst thing that ever happened to you turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to you?”. I’ve carried a lot of heavy loads throughout my life, and every single one of those journeys started with me thinking “this is the worst thing ever”. But without those experiences, I would not be the individual I am today.

Wynter Ray: “We can’t control the world. We can only control our own reactions to it.” That concept is something really important to me, and I try to get better at it every day.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Coach KJ? 

Shelby Blixt:  My favorite thing about KJ is his openness to lineups and drills that the girls suggest. I think it’s super important to listen to your players because they know themselves better than a coach will. I also admire the way he hypes us up when we get in mental ruts in games.

Ellis Jimenez: My favorite thing about Coach KJ is probably his drive to have fun. Despite the stress and pressure we’re often in as a team, he is always encouraging us to not only do our best but to remember why we play- to have fun. Sometimes it means ridiculous costumes or what others would consider embarrassing dance moves, but the energy and aura he radiates helps us all to relax and enjoy our favorite sport.

Wynter Ray: Coach KJ has a special way of coaching our team. My favorite thing about him is that even with all the stress of taking over two teams, he still has the spiritedness to do things like dress up for themed games, which I really think creates a positive and fun environment for the team.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your teammates? 

Shelby Blixt: The girls in the ACPVB program are so different than any club program. We are way more connected because we hang out with each other every day of the week; it’s like a family. We go through so much together: wins, losses, 2 hour bus rides, laughing, and crying. So I think my favorite thing about my teammates is our family-like connection.

Ellis Jimenez: My favorite thing about my teammates is their attitude of improvement. These girls have such a drive to improve and play well, and their diligence pays off. While we’re a new team, they work hard to make new rotations and adjustments work for the team.

Wynter Ray: My favorite thing about my teammates is their resilience during this time. Even though we have a limited season and we lost two coaches midway through, we have never given up and have always tried to make the best of each situation.

Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Bishop

Q: How has volleyball made you a better person? 

Shelby Blixt: Volleyball has taught me how to lead and play as a teammate at the same time. It’s sometimes hard to do both without overdoing one or the other, but through volleyball I have learned how to perfect that balance. It has also taught me how to handle disappointments because you can’t win every game or ace every serve. It’s important to remember that you have to have lows in order to experience highs.

Ellis Jimenez:  Volleyball has helped me learn how to take care of myself physically and mentally. Self-care is a very overlooked component in overall health. As I’ve been able to play with incredible teammates and receive amazing coaching, the atmosphere of love teaches you to love yourself. It’s thanks to volleyball that I fell in love with fitness and helped me secure a sense of who I am. Once I was able to confront a lot of my insecurities, I found that I was so much happier as a person!

Wynter Ray: Volleyball has taught me teamwork and leadership, two very important life skills. I have always been grateful to be involved in a community like this. Without it, I would probably be sitting at home all day.

Q: How do you calm your nerves or anxiety before a game? 

Shelby Blixt: Before games, I get a lot of anxiety especially when there are scouts or writers in the audience. Thankfully, I’ve been playing for so long that once I get on the court, it’s all muscle memory. All my nerves melt away once I get into my rhythm. When I’m especially anxious, I focus on my breathing and distract myself with other thoughts.

Ellis Jimenez: I calm my nerves before games in a myriad of ways (depending on the game), but one thing that always ends up in my routine is listening to the song “The Champion” by Carrie Underwood. Since one of my volleyball mentors shared her thoughts with me about it, I’ve never been able to not listen to it. It never fails to pump me up and give me the chills that helps me settle into the mindset to play hard, play well, and enjoy the time on the court.

Wynter Ray: Since I am a senior and this is my third year playing in varsity games, I feel very comfortable and usually don’t get nerves. However, if I do, I listen to music, spend time by myself, and avoid caffeine.

Q: How would you describe the ACPVB program? 

Shelby Blixt: The ACPVB program is not a normal program to me. It represents unity, family, class, and respect. I don’t think there are a lot of other teams that hold themselves to as high of a moral standard as ACPVB does. The amount of life lessons I’ve learned from this program alone show it is more than just a couple of volleyball teams.

Ellis Jimenez: The ACPVB program is a family experience within a volleyball team that you don’t get anywhere else. You’re surrounded by good-hearted, competitive, loving people that bring out a new side of you. You become a family as a program instead of just a team, and you make the beautiful kind of memories that remain unforgettable.

Wynter Ray: ACPVB is a program that is more than just a volleyball team. It’s special because it’s a family that teaches life-long lessons and creates life-long friends and memories.

I am so incredibly proud of all the ladies on all three teams. They have showed intelligence, humility, and grace on the court and off. We are all so excited for the rest of the season. Go Knights!