Venice High School’s girls varsity volleyball team recently won the Los Angeles City Championship. Photos credit: Nicole Miche

Venice High School’s girls varsity volleyball team wins championship

By Michele Robinson

The Venice High School girls varsity volleyball team has a lot to cheer about these days.

VHS won the Los Angeles City Championship and is proudly taking home the gold trophy this year. VHS, the underdog team, shattered the long-standing Palisades High winning streak, which they held since 2010. This is the first time in the school’s history to win this title.

“It felt amazing,” said Avia Yosef, VHS senior and varsity team player.

And what an amazing year they had, overcoming many challenges and hardships along the way.

“Every time we faced adversity we had the mental fortitude to know we could get through anything together,” said Coach Raul Aviles.

For starters, they were impacted by COVID-19, as some of the team members ended up contracting it. Due to the pandemic they couldn’t practice together for almost a year. This made it mentally and physically challenging because many were not motivated to practice at home and had to retrain to get back into athletic shape.

“Volleyball keeps me fit mentally and physically happy,” Yosef said.

When the team could finally practice together, it was very difficult because they had to do it in late July during the heat of the summer, outside on the grass. They also had to train wearing masks, which restricted their airflow and oxygen intake. Many ended up with a partial mask tan on their faces as well.

Other problems that plagued the team included injuries. One teammate broke her foot and was unable to play for the entire season. Two other members had sprained ankles and several others ended up with concussions.

“We had to adjust to the pace so quickly, the expectations were really high,” Yosef said. “We had to show up and just do it.”

Another thing that sets the VHS team apart from others is that most of the players on the team are minority students who don’t come from affluent or privileged backgrounds, and many of them couldn’t afford the private clubs that their counterpart teammates at other schools utilized.

“In most teams, the girls have been in private clubs since they were young and had a head start in getting superior skills,” said Colette Brown, Yosef’s mother. “Venice did not have this advantage, not everybody can afford it. Some of our girls only started playing in 9th grade.”

Out of 53 games, VHS won 49 – 4. Out of those four losses, three were to teams they had beaten before such as Palisades High School, Culver City High School and La Salle College Preparatory High School. In order to achieve this high level of success, the team needed to practice a lot. They practiced every day from the last period in school until 5 p.m., which came to three to four hours a day. Then they practiced during the summer from 6 to 9 a.m., five days a week. If they missed the summer practice, they might not play that much in the fall.

“It was highly competitive and we had to be a well-trained team,” Yosef said.

The team attributed their success to the support and motivation of their teamwork, coaches Aviles and Allen Hunt, and supportive parents.

“This year was a fantastic season,” Aviles said. “The reason for the team’s success ranges from a number of things. From having a few players who had played varsity as freshman to having all team members on the same page. Those players were not only highly motivated to learn and grow, but be good teammates. There was also tremendous support from our community; as the team grew so did our support from parents and families to more student fans at matches – even alumni were able to come out and support.”

Aviles, head coach for the varsity team this year, has a coaching style that works very well with this team that has been together for four years.

“Coach Raul saw the talent and developed it,” Brown said. “He believed in the team, got them to practice. They got more from him than a club.”

Another advantage the VHS girls volleyball team has is their strong bond of camaraderie and teamwork. The teammates are close friends on and off the court. They hang out and have classes together, and enjoy group activities like going to the beach and bowling.

“They all pull together, it’s a ‘we got this’ attitude that is amazing,” Brown said. “They are like sisters and not all teams have that.”

The support from parents also played an important role in the success of the team. The parents were always getting up early to take the team members to practices and games.

After all of the adversity VHS faced along with the hard work, perseverance and solidarity it took to win, they are excited and proud to be City Champions. Keep up with the team’s progress on Instagram

“This is a great comeback story,” Yosef said.