In an incredibly special feat, our SCIS Pudong Varsity Girls volleyball team has made history by winning back-to-back ACAMIS championships. While not unprecedented, with both our girls and boys basketball teams winning three consecutive ACAMIS championships (2006-2009) and two ACAMIS championships (2006-2008), respectively, this is the first time that a volleyball team has managed to do so. They do so on the back of having won both SISAC and ACAMIS championships in 2018!

Described as cohesive, dynamic and poised by their coach, Vic Caban, the Varsity Girls volleyball team, has grown from strength to strength this season, which culminated in winning ACAMIS gold without dropping a single set. This year wasn’t without its upsets, though, with the team facing some testing opposition that threatened to destabilize the balance of things. Nevertheless, with each shared experience the team grew mentally stronger and since learned to rely on each player’s strength and energy.

According to Coach Vic, one of the key factors in the team’s success was stability, with four girls starting in the team together for three seasons in a row. Each year, this core group brought a wealth of experience to the court, building trust and belief amongst the other members of the team.

Voted All-Tournament Team members for their contributions throughout the ACAMIS championships were Izzy Johnson (Grade 12), Denali Caban (Grade 11), and Mei Lee Luebbe (Grade 10). As part of the core members of the team, they share their thoughts on winning back-to-back titles the past two seasons and the dynamic that makes up this special group of girls.

Congrats on winning back-to-back ACAMIS championship, how did it feel to achieve this together?

Izzy: Thanks! It felt great to achieve this as a team. Being able to watch the team grow from the beginning of the season to end really shows how much effort was put in by everyone. I’m glad it all paid off as these girls definitely deserved it. 

Mei Lee: I felt extremely proud. Coming from a small school, we are often thought of as the underdogs. However, this only motivated us more this season. All of our girls worked extremely hard and faced many strong wins and hard losses. We were the team we were because of each other and because of our grit. This paid off tremendously in the finals as each of us earned every point with intensity. Thus, I am extremely proud of our girls for showing how tough the Pudong dragons can be.

What would you say were the determining factors in ensuring your team’s success?

Denali: There are always so many factors that can determine success, but for our team, it was our composure, focus, and determination. We knew from the beginning that winning ACAMIS was our goal, and we were determined to be the best we could be and play to the best of our abilities. That only happens with focus, which we gave every time we stepped on to the court for practice and for games

Mei Lee: I would say that the dynamic between our players was a major factor. As we learned along the way, our attitudes come first before our playing time. If we didn’t have positive mindsets on the court, there would have been a zero chance of winning any of the games of the season.

You must have hit some speedbumps along the way, what were some of the biggest learning challenges you faced?

Izzy: The biggest learning challenge I faced was trust. I tend to overthink and have problems trusting in the fact that my team members would be there for me if I was able to get difficult balls up, but they definitely showed me that I can trust them with anything.

Mei Lee: Losing to Concordia was the most upset our team had been. Not because of the loss, but merely because of our attitude throughout the game. Each of us expected a loss, so that’s exactly what we received. We let our minds take over on the court which reflected poorly in our performance. Nevertheless, this game taught us more about volleyball than anything else could. We learned that volleyball is much more about simply playing the sport. It’s about your mentality and the way you respond to failure. This game woke us up and prepared us for our ACAMIS championship.

What has been one of the best memories playing for the team?

Mei Lee: My first ACAMIS, of being an unexperienced middle schooler on the team put my volleyball career a fantastic start. I was introduced to amazing people that guided me along the way to where I am today. Winning that year motivated me to work harder with perseverance. Which brings me to my second-best memory of winning this year’s championship. I loved it so much because it showed me what I was capable of and what I could accomplish, by coming this far.

What were some of the things you will remember most about those who are leaving?

Denali: Of course, it’s hard to see them go, but I am proud to have been able to play with seniors, Izzy and Lila. I have loved getting to know Izzy and watch her grow so much as a player throughout the years. She has become so confident in herself and her capabilities and I will truly miss playing by her side.

Lila has been such a gift to the team, and I am so happy to have been able to know her. I think the most memorable thing was watching her serves evolve as well as her confidence. Every time she was on the court, I was confident that she was there to get the ball and make the pass. I am going to miss having Lila around as a player and a friend.

It’s sad to have to lose two amazing players like them, but they will always be remembered as dragons.

Mei Lee: I will never forget when Izzy served 25 straight points versus SMIC at last year’s Big Game Night. It was so exciting and crazy. I don’t think I’ll ever see something like that again. As for Lila, I will always remember how composed she always seemed on the court. She never looked or acted nervously, but she had to be at some point, right?

Any words of encouragement for current and future SCIS athletes?

Mei Lee: GO OUT AND PLAY!! If someone wouldn’t have encouraged me to play in 7th grade there would have been no chance of me touching a volleyball in my years at SCIS. Listen to the people around you, try something new. You might start off rough because I definitely did; but, no matter what you will gain something from the experience and hopefully get the amazing volleyball experience I did at SCIS.

Denali: I would just say, don’t give up and keep fighting. The SCIS girls volleyball team has always been scrappy and ready to take on whatever gets thrown at us and that’s part of what makes us the team we are. Also, believe in the skills you do have, even if you don’t think you can help. Volleyball is about getting the ball up and keeping it up and you never know, maybe you will be the person who saves the game. Once. Always.

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