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With heavy hits, volleyball captain Eileen Shi spikes competition

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By Cynthia Leung

Originally published on October 16, 2014

Senior outside hitter Eileen Shi spikes the ball in the Cardinals’ championship win over Balboa last season on Nov. 15. Photo by Cate Stern

After dropping two consecutive sets against St. Ignatius last season on Sept. 6, the varsity girls’ volleyball team picked up their attitude won two straight sets to take a 3–2 win. During that game, current senior captain, outside hitter and October Athlete of the Month Eileen Shi had one of her best performances with 10 kills, a 0.429 hitting percentage and only 1 error, displaying her hitting excellence.

Shi is well above the national average of kills, a successful attack, and hitting percentage, the difference between kills and errors divided by the total number of attempts. Last season, Shi had 107 kills and a 0.207 hitting percentage, which compares with the national average of 23 kills and 0.1 hitting percentage.

Shi’s hard spikes make her a key player on the team. “Eileen’s hits are quick and heavy,” Audrey Kan, junior defensive specialist and Shi’s long time teammate said. “Our opponents in tournaments and pre-season games usually don’t expect it since our team is shorter, but once Eileen is set and gets a kill, they know to watch out for her. She is the power hitter of our team.”

After starting for the Cardinals on the frosh-soph team in her freshman year and the varsity team since her sophomore year, Shi has been named team captain this year, which is a challenge she is ready to take on. “This year is going to put me through a test,” she said. “I was made captain of the team and I’ve never really led an entire team before. Usually, I don’t talk much on the team. I definitely feel a lot more pressure.”

“This year is going to put me through a test. I was made captain of the team and I’ve never really led an entire team before.”

According to Kan, Shi works hard all the time. “She is very aggressive and is one of the few who always puts in one hundred percent on the court,” she said. “Eileen never fools around when she is on the court, whether it is just practice or during a game. I love playing next to her because I trust her to put the ball away or go for it.

Here, Kan describes the time Shi helped her out through a rough patch:

“Most importantly, I know that she’s got my back. In the beginning of our season, I wasn’t playing too well. During tryouts for this season, I became too focused on my mistakes. This carried on over to our first two weeks of preseason. When I was benched, I would get angry at myself and dread going to practices and games because of it. Eileen noticed and came to talk to me. She told me that I have nothing to be afraid of and I should not worry because I have done it before. She was the first and only one who came to support me. I truly felt that she believed in me. I look up to her; Eileen motivated me when I hit a bump in the road. She’s my best friend, ‘sister’, and teammate.”

Also, Shi has taken her captain role seriously by encouraging her teammates and keeping order. “Eileen has one of the loudest voices on the team,” Kan said. “She knows how to motivate us when we are down and reminds us to focus during practice and games.”

Shi (front) leads the Cardinals in their 25–5, 25–12, 25–13 win over Salesian on Sept. 11. Photo by Amber Ly

Shi started her volleyball career in third grade at Holy Name, later transferring to St. Anne School in the fifth grade. She began to play for club teams in the seventh grade and currently plays for Slainte Volleyball Club. Shi originally signed up for volleyball because of her curiosity of sports. After her mom made her join a club team for a year, she slowly began to love the sport. “As I continued to play, I grew a passion for it,” she said. “The best part was getting super close with the girls on the team and the feeling of killing a ball after a long rally. To be the one to end a long rally and score feels great because in that moment, everyone is counting on each other and working together just to get a point that would help us get momentum.”

As her love for the game grew, Shi’s skill and volleyball IQ improved as well. According to head coach Steven Wesley, Shi places the ball in a spot more difficult to reach rather than sending it in a direction easier for the receiver to return. In addition, she has also developed a stronger mentality.“She makes more intelligent decisions, bounces back well from mistakes and tries to stay as positive as possible,” he said.

“She makes more intelligent decisions, bounces back well from mistakes and tries to stay as positive as possible.”

Maintaining a strong mentality has been an obstacle that Shi has had to eventually overcome. “Two years ago, I played at a big club team tournament that could qualify our team for the Junior Olympics,” she said. “We had to play ten games straight, which was really hard since you have to push yourself even when you’re tired. In the end, we won all our games and qualified for the Junior Olympics.”

Injuries have been a common setback for Shi, who is still recovering from a recent injury. Coming back from injuries is a difficult task, according to Shi, and it takes a lot of work to get back in shape. “Whenever I get injured, it’s hard to get back to my usual level,” she said. “I just got injured two weeks ago at a game against Lincoln. Now, I have to go back to the basics and re-learn the footwork and timing.”

Shi plans to continue playing volleyball in college. She has already received emails from colleges but she is unsure of where she wants to go. Wesley believes that Shi’s volleyball career can go as far as she want it to. “As long as her passion continues for volleyball, there is no timeline,” he said. “She can compete at the collegiate level. She is extremely coachable and has a very strong work ethic, both of which any coach loves to see in a prospective player.”

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With heavy hits, volleyball captain Eileen Shi spikes competition