Sports Person of the Week
Boyles Ready to Pin Down More Success as a Senior
Ava Boyles is preparing for her final season with the Valley Regional girls’ volleyball squad this year. Ava, who plays the pin hitter position, recorded 178 kills while helping the Warriors claim the Shoreline Conference crown last fall. (Photo courtesy of Ava Boyles)
Ava Boyles has played a key role in some big matches for the Valley Regional girls’ volleyball team. As she gets ready for her senior year, Ava has already has helped the Warriors pull off a major upset to take the Shoreline Conference title against when they defeated top-seeded Hale-Ray in last year’s league final.
Ava and her teammates are hoping for an even better performance in 2020.
Ava is a volleyball player through and through. When she isn’t playing for Valley, Ava competes for the CT Velocity Volleyball High Performance team. Among all of her career highlights, Ava believes that hanging a Shoreline championship banner in the Valley Regional gymnasium is her proudest moment.
“I would say the Shoreline championship game will be something that I’ll always remember. I think that was my proudest moment, because I was able to play my part on the team, and we were able to come together and take the title,” Ava says. “We were down, but we were able to go on a run of points and come back. It was kind of a blur. The game went by really fast when I think about it.”
Ava plays what is called a the pin hitter position—otherwise known as outside hitter—for both the Warriors and her High Performance squad. Ava became a hitter as soon as she joined Valley as a freshman because of her height advantage over other players.
“I’m a pin hitter, which means I’ll play both left front and right front. I’ve been a pin hitter since I was a freshman. It’s because I’m tall, and that’s a good place to put a tall person,” says Ava, who is 5-foot-10. “I think personally, it’s easier to play on the left, but I use my right arm to hit the ball playing on both sides.”
Being a pin hitter means that Ava is always there to get a kill against her opponents. Ava also has to go up and block the opposition from landing kills on her own team. Ava enjoys both aspects of her position, but spiking the ball to the ground is her favorite part. Last year, Ava led the Warriors in kills with 178 on the year.
“I think getting kills and blocks are both really crucial as a hitter. It’s important to have both skills. I think that I really love getting kills, though. I love to be able to play my part on the team and, when I get a kill, I feel that I’ve accomplished something for the other five players on the court,” Ava says. “Blocks are good, too. You always block with someone else. So, that can feel good, too, because it’s the both of you working together.”
Ava is prepared to take on a larger role as a leader for the Warriors this coming season. As one of the club’s four seniors, Ava knows that many of her teammates will be looking for her guidance on how to improve their games and contribute to a winning culture. Ava would feel honored to do that as a captain, but she will be ready to lead the team regardless of whether she has that title.
“I would love to be captain. There’s an amazing group of girls playing volleyball at Valley. I would love to be called captain and have that role,” says Ava, who lives in Essex. “I think that as a leader, I would try to keep the positive energy up and show that it’s easier to work together as a team than not to. As long as we’re staying positive, scrappy, aggressive, and determined, we can do anything.”
Valley Regional Athletic Director Jeff Swan has seen what Ava brings to the court in terms of both her athletic ability and her demeanor. Swan believes that Ava will be a huge asset for the Warriors during the 2020 campaign.
“Ava’s a very talented volleyball player. She had a very good year last year, and she’s been working hard on getting ready for this year,” says Swan. “She’s very outgoing and great in the classroom. She makes it happen both inside and outside that classroom. That’s what we want out of our student-athletes. She’s also very coachable and a great person to talk to in general.”
As Ava finishes up her high school education, she plans to pursue a medical degree when she moves on to college. While she hasn’t decided on a school as of yet, Ava plans to continue playing volleyball at the collegiate level.
“When I go to college, I plan on doing pre-med. I’ve taken one or two science classes each year, and they’ve really gotten me prepared,” Ava says. “With the whole COVID crisis, it’s shown me that it’s so important for me to play my part in the bigger picture in society, like I try to on the volleyball team. I think that going pre-med would allow me to do that.”
In addition to her work on the court and in the classroom, Ava is part of the Reach Out Program of Deep River and Chester, where, along with program director Laura Kenney, she helps groups of younger girls deal with social challenges that may arise. Ava has been presented with some new challenges that she never would have anticipated prior the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We give advice and offer support to a group of 10 girls with any issues that they may have. We do weekly check-ins and lessons that help them with different social situations,” says Ava. “Since the pandemic, we’ve talked about different coping mechanisms for everything going on. The director of the program helps us structure each lesson and is always there to moderate the Zoom calls.”
As for how she’s dealing with the upheaval that the pandemic has caused in her own life, Ava is just trying her best to stay positive and remain active.
“I’ve been running a lot. I’ve been working out and trying to be the best player I can be,” Ava says. “Not just for myself, but for my team and any future teams that I might be on.”