For the shy and reserved personality, forming new friendships can be a challenge.
The education system has a way of taking people out of their comfort zone. Kids grow up with a small group of classmates in elementary school.
When middle school arrives, the pool of students grows to include strangers. Depending on a person’s communication, many of those strangers can become acquaintances, or even close friends.
But just as the new teenagers grow accustom to the new environment, they are thrown into the deep end. High school brings about new people and new challenges.
When Phoebe Minch arrived at Fountain Valley, she had the skills to fit in with one group on campus. She made the varsity girls’ volleyball team as a freshman.
Even though there may have been acceptance, Minch was not ready to tear down her walls.
“When I made varsity as a freshman, it was really exciting, but also intimidating because I didn’t really know a lot of people,” Minch said. “Most of the girls on the team were seniors.”
Minch let her game do the talking for her. In time, she did not have to speak up in order to break the ice.
Again, in an environment that is often advantageous to the outgoing and engaging personality, it can be hard to have your voice heard. One time of the day that all of the students have to listen to one voice is during the announcements.
“Since I was a starter as a freshman, I think I gained respect in the program and throughout the school,” Minch said. “On the announcements, they would announce my name, so people would know who I am. That was cool.”
After leading the Barons to the playoffs as a freshman, the outside hitter received the captaincy in her sophomore year.
Now in her second year as a captain, it is a role that she continues to grow into. First-year Fountain Valley coach Taylor Packer said she would like to see Minch lead beyond her play on the court.
“I think the next part for her to be a great captain is just to be able to talk to the girls and lead them,” Packer said. “She has everything, but she just needs to relay that back to them. She wants them to follow her.”
Having joined the ranks of the upperclassmen, comfort zone may no longer be a high priority for Minch. She appreciates Packer’s commitment to challenging the team.
“I would say now that Taylor is our coach, our level of intensity and level of skill is going to go up tremendously because she is challenging all of us in a new way,” Minch said. “She makes many of us do jump serves during a game, including me, which is a challenge because I’ve never really done that in a game. I’ve always practiced it just for fun.
“I think that’s the main thing. She’s really challenging us in a lot of aspects of our game. I think that will make us a lot better.”
Packer, 24, played setter at Huntington Beach, graduating in 2012. She has coached at the HBC volleyball club with her mom, Kimberly, and her stepdad, Darrick Lucero, since she was 18.
Minch had 17 kills, 24 digs and seven service aces in Fountain Valley’s two wins against University and Katella last week. In beginning the season at 3-0, the Barons were off to their best start in best-of-five-set matches since 2012.
The 5-foot-10, 145-pound junior appeared to make strides in her vocal leadership, too. Packer said that Minch has been helping setter Lauren Mena run the court by telling her who to set.
Experience can be a big ally, as junior libero Rachel Lucie is finding out in her first year as captain.
Lucie called Minch intense, and she added that her co-captain’s passion for the sport is evident.
“I try to kind of be their friend,” Lucie said of her approach as a captain. “I know that’s not always the greatest thing, so I’m working on that, but I think [Minch] can actually tell people how to get stuff done. She gives really good feedback to everyone else.”
After years of hearing the same rhetoric, Minch has come to terms with being the underdog in the Sunset League. Regardless, she wants her team to fight and earn the respect of their opponents.
“I think my freshman year, when we beat Newport Harbor…, I think that was like a really big moment,” Minch said. “I think it showed the other teams like, ‘Oh, we need to take them seriously.’”
Fountain Valley last made the playoffs in Minch’s freshman year. The opponent was Laguna Beach, which moved into the Sunset League and resides in the Wave Division with the Barons.
The Breakers should be prohibitive favorites to win the lower division.
“No matter what the outcome is, I try to have a positive attitude through it all, and I try to pump up my teammates,” Minch said. “I think a lot of the times, why we don’t do so well during the season is the mental aspect.”
Minch says the best thing for her team to do would be to throw history out the window and just focus on execution.
“I think we need to have a clear mindset and restart that thought of them in our minds,” she said with regard to perceiving opponents as the favorites to win a match. “We can start to play them like a new team that we know nothing about.”
Born: May 1, 2002
Hometown: Fountain Valley
Height: 5 feet 10
Weight: 145 pounds
Coach: Taylor Packer
Favorite food: French fries
Favorite movie: “The Greatest Showman”
Favorite athletic moment: As a member of the Seal Beach Volleyball Club, Minch’s 13-and-under team took second in the Open Division of the national championships in New Orleans.