By Jenelyn Russo     12/10/2014

Zoe Stanley has made the most of her high school volleyball career, excelling in both the sport and the leadership role in which she’s served at Cornelia Connelly School.

The four-year varsity player got her start on the court in sixth grade, where she was a quick study of the game and soon began playing on a club team.

It was in the club volleyball setting that Stanley honed both her skills and her leadership style in preparation to lead her teammates in high school.

“Playing club [volleyball] has not only made my level of play better, but has also given me the competitive drive that I’ve needed,” says Stanley. “[It’s] helped me get a sense of urgency to play on the court.”

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While the senior enjoys the competitive aspect of the game, the strong bonds she has formed with her teammates after investing many hours in practice, training and games are what she values most as she looks ahead to graduation.

“My favorite thing about volleyball is making the friends and the bonds that come along with practicing every day and spending a lot of time together,” says the 17-year-old team captain. “I think what I’ll miss the most [about] competing for Connelly is just being with my sisters on the court. Those are friends I will treasure forever and I’m very grateful for them.”

Stanley approaches leadership like a big sister, a style she feels allows her to be both supportive and relatable to her teammates. First-year Connelly varsity volleyball head coach Ryan Windisch agrees that this has been effective both for Stanley and the team as a whole.

“Zoe is a natural player and leader both on and off the court and her skill and decision-making are among the best in the league,” says Windisch. “Her leadership ability is amazing for being so young and I was able to communicate anything to her. I definitely see that carrying her to bigger and better things in college.”

The Garden Grove resident has found a potential fit for her college years in Mount Ida College in Newton, Mass., a place that cultivates the same family approach to the game of volleyball that Stanley has become accustomed to at Connelly.

While being a student athlete has posed many challenges along the way, Stanley has taken it all in stride and is grateful for how the sport and the experiences have allowed her to grow.

“[Volleyball] has taught me to always persevere…and to always just be confident in who I am and my abilities,” says Stanley of her growth as a player and a leader. “I’ve learned that’s what it takes to be the best. From those experiences, I’ve become the player and person I am today.”