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Trail Blazer Spotlight: Sophie S. ’22 A Spirited and Serious Influence on the Bush Volleyball Program

Each month, the Bush Athletics Department will spotlight a Trail Blazer, a member of the Blazer Athletic community that’s had an impact on the program on and off the court. First up is senior and four-year varsity volleyball player Sophie S. ’22
Growing up, volleyball was always the obvious question for Sophie S. ’22. 

“I was always tall,” Sophie said with a smile. “People would always ask, ‘Do you play?’ So I decided to try it out.”

Self-admittedly bad at the sport when she first started in the Fifth Grade, Sophie said she kept at it and continued to improve. Over the past eight years, she’s developed into one of the premier prep volleyball players in the country, as she is set to attend Division I University of Illinois (Champaign, Illinois) next fall. 

“I never dreamed of playing volleyball at this high of a level collegiately, I was always academically focused, that’s why I chose Bush,” Sophie said. “But I’ve found a home doing athletics here as well.”

Since arriving at Bush in the Ninth Grade, it’s been more than her athleticism (and height) that’s grown over the years. A starter on the Blazer varsity team since the Ninth Grade, Sophie emerged as a leader for the community through her can-do approach. She helped redefine the Bush volleyball program, guiding the Blazers to a 10-7 regular season record this year and a berth in the postseason. 

“Bush has helped me mature as a human being and made me a much better teammate,” Sophie said. “I’ve grown a lot in uplifting others, and I really like to lead by example, and help other people be better.”

At six-feet, two inches, Sophie is hard to miss on the court or campus. But it’s her outgoing, encouraging persona that makes her a stand-out student-athlete. Bush Head Varsity Volleyball Coach Bradie Ferguson, who’s been coaching Sophie for the past two years, explained Sophie’s journey has been incredible to witness not only volleyball wise, but as a whole person. She said Sophie embraced her role as a captain and role model to the younger players through her play and uplifting spirit. 

“She’s grown from these last years as a leader in her role and how she approaches matches,” Ferguson said. “She’s very analytical about it. Sophie has been able to show support to her teammates, and she is just so fun and friendly and competitive. I think the balance between competitiveness and friendliness is huge.”

Sophie, who started playing competitive club volleyball in Middle School and now plays for Washington Volleyball Academy, has always served as top-tier player for fellow Bush volleyball players. She was named All-League First Team in Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Grade. As a junior, she led the team in total kills with a 49%. This season Sophie is averaging nearly 55% and 9.75 kills per match, along with an 87.05% of her serves in-play, and is contributing 30.9% of the total team points earned.

Always a leader in her play on the court, Bradie said while it’s difficult to play at two different levels—club and high school—Sophie has been able to take what she’s learned at both the club level and at Bush to make herself a better all-around player. 

“Her coachability is huge,” Bradie said. “She responds really well to feedback, but she also actively seeks it out. Her drive to be better is unparalleled.”

Sophie said when she first began club play, her defense and passing needed work, so she only played the front row. During this same time, she played the front and back row at Bush which helped with her defense, allowing her to become a much better passer at the club level. 

“Her athleticism is huge. Being so good all-around is rare to come by, but it makes her stand out even more,” Bradie said.

Sophie said over the past four years she’s tried to help slowly change what Bush volleyball means in terms of being a competitive and inviting community. Over the years—through her play and leadership role—she’s made sure that everyone is involved and knows Bush volleyball is a sport to be reckoned with. In her first year at Bush, she helped guide the Blazers to a 12-2 record. Through her four years, each season she’s helped elevate the Blazers’ growth in different areas of the game to make them a more well-rounded team. 

“We are creating a community within Bush with all the players coming ready to play our best every single day and having that competitive spirit,” Bradie said. “Sophie always shows up ready to give it her all, and she has risen to the occasion to try to improve Bush volleyball by showing the JV and Middle School players that hard work and dedication pays off.”

Added Sophie: “Bush volleyball has changed a lot. I think we’ve really promoted the team’s culture and chemistry through events such as Pink Out and sending emails, and letting the community know about Bush Volleyball.” 
Sophie, who committed nearly two years ago to Illinois, said she was ready to head to the next level immediately, but now she’s trying to soak in each day at Bush, a school she credits for helping her find balance in life.

“Bush has helped me astronomically,” Sophie said. “When applying to schools and the recruiting process, I felt really confident in my educational background. Bush has helped me balance academics and athletics so well.”

Sophie’s legacy is a volleyball program that is more spirited and committed. Her mark will continue long after she graduates from Bush. 

“I think it’s leaving this legacy to continuously improve and compete,” Bradie said of Sophie’s impact. “After she graduates I think that will continue to last. Volleyball will be a team that builds that community within because of all the hard work she’s done.” 

Off the court Sophie said photography, spending time in nature, tennis and skiing (something she’s done since age two) are some of the hobbies she enjoys. While her friends joke that all she talks about is volleyball, she said she hopes to continue playing the game well after college. So for now, volleyball is the obvious answer for almost everything, and Sophie is okay with that. 

“Volleyball is something that I am so passionate about and has changed my life,” Sophie said. 

-by Mary Albl
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