Oak Crest girls win volleyball championship

The champion Oak Crest Middle School volleyball team.

A talented squad of girls from Oak Crest Middle School won the school’s first championship in volleyball. The Waves took the title decisively, going 10-0 and only dropping one set the entire season of Big 8 Coastal Conference play. In the championship match on Nov. 9 against Earl Warren the girls crushed it, winning 8-25, 12-25.

“It was definitely a really good season for these girls,” said Coach Madison DeGraan.

The 2021 team included eighth graders Katie Geist, Brianna Woelfel, Simone Heineman, Gwen Mullins, Cassidy Fleming, Serena Spears, Dana Newcomer, Ellie Burr, Riley Balogh, Eva Solowczuk, Sadie, Moorea McGowan and sole seventh grader Kylee-Jo “JoJo” Wilson.

Ellie, who plays up on the 16-year-old Wave Volleyball Beach team, served as the captain. JoJo and Dana were the team’s leading scorers.

“I was so proud of them,” DeGraan said of her champions. “I told them to enjoy every minute because this is the last time they will all play together on one team.”

DeGraan, 19, is in her third year of coaching at the school, first taking on the role of coach at Oak Crest when she was just 17. She was drawn to coaching to help young athletes.

“Playing volleyball for me was always tough because I didn’t have a coach who was able to understand both the physical and mental aspects of the sport,” she said.

DeGraan wanted to be the kind of coach who could help young girls find a sport they could be passionate about, the kind of coach who lifts up and supports her players to help them develop confidence.

“It’s so rewarding for me to see how much they grow,” she said.

Principal Katie Freidrichs said the volleyball games were fun for everyone to watch this year as the Oak Crest community came together to show support for their talented team.

“When the team was selected there were murmurs throughout the school about how good they were,” Freidrichs said. “Game after game they proved themselves and I am sure it had a positive effect on their self-esteem as well.”

Physically, the team had many very strong and powerful players. “They had a good swing,” DeGraan said of their impressive high school to college-level skills.

Although athletically strong, DeGraan attributes their success this year to teamwork.

“A good connection on the court is everything,” she said. The girls often hung out at school together and did team activities to build trust in each other. “They didn’t know each other at the start of the year and they became a family.”

In practice, DeGraan trains the players at a high school level, to set them up well for what comes next. She talked to them a lot about what they need to do to prepare for the next level, playing for a club team or for high school teams at San Dieguito or La Costa Canyon. Despite their winning ways, the Oak Crest girls were always focused on what they can do to improve their game, a mindset shared by the seventh-grade players coming up behind the champions.

“Middle school years are a transformative time in a child’s life and the importance of sports and physical activity should not be overlooked,” Freidrichs said. “While Oak Crest focuses on academics, we are equally focused on a student’s healthy social and emotional well-being, which is something that sports can give them. These girls became a true team this year and it warms my heart to see that friendship when I see them together on campus.”