July 11, 2020 – By NJP
The future is bright for the Montclair Kimberley Academy high school volleyball team. Three freshman established their presence for the Cougars last season with team leading stats and spirit. One of those top flight freshman is Hailey Fouche.
Hailey broke onto the scene with a Cougar best 127 kills and provided 202 digs, 23 blocks and 10 aces. Fouche used her 5′ 11″ frame and superior athletic ability to overpower opponents on the attack.
Despite finishing one game under .500, the Cougars won 9 of their last 13 games as the team gelled together, setting the tone for a resurgence in 2020. We expect them to make a big splash in county and state tournaments.
Setter Ava Augustine will be one of four returning senior leaders on this very young team along with Katie Hipp, Vanessa Amsinger, and PJ Dowd. Samiyah Abdur Rahim, Amara Lerner and Zhenia Doluda are rising sophomores who along with Hailey made such an impressive impact as freshman. Zhenia had 38 blocks and 32 kills in her first year and Samiyah had 94 kills, 69 digs, and a team leading 17 aces.
Hailey is a driven student who sets high expectations for her academics as well as her athletics. She works hard on her studies as well as her technique and has a solid intensity level that will drive her success. Technically, she possesses a smooth and powerful swing already as a freshman and this will only get better in time. She puts up a formidable block and we expect her kill total to double as a sophomore. Hailey was 5th in the overall 2023 grad year class in kills and she will certainly be a player to watch in 2020 and her upperclassman years.
Here is our interview with Ms. Fouche…
Hi Hailey…Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Hailey Fouche, I am the graduating class of 2023 and am a rising Sophomore at Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA). I live with my parents, my younger sister, and my dog. Outside of volleyball and school, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, learning photography, helping to tutor younger kids, along with drawing and sculpture.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have been playing volleyball since 6th grade. I’ve played several sports in school, town and travel leagues. When the opportunity to play volleyball came up, I decided to try it because I had some upper class friends who played. I really enjoyed the team spirit and relationships that were created on the court — it’s different from other sports I have played. I also really enjoyed the game — the strategy, reading the other players, the power, the finesse, and the teamwork.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am a 5’11” outside hitter (OH) and right side hitter (RS). I was an OH in school and in my second year playing club. This past club season I played RS. I am glad to play whatever position to help the team.
How will your high school team do in the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success? Tell us about your teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
I am very excited about the upcoming fall season. We were really young last year and the majority of our varsity team is returning. I think we have great talent. We have a strong offense and good defense. I believe that if we are able to be aggressive on our defense that we will be able to go far in the county and state tournaments. Ava Augustine ‘21 is our setter and will set the pace of our offense. Ava is returning after coming off a knee injury that has kept her off the court for the past 2 seasons. Samiyah Abdur-Rahim ‘23 is our other OH. When Samiyah is not killing it, she is behind the line serving it up. She has a great serve that not many can handle. Her serving will help us significantly. PJ Dowd ‘21 was our captain last year. She is a key player in our defense and hustles more than almost anyone I know. Last year she was our libero. And, Vanessa Amsinger’21 is an all-around great athlete and it’s an advantage that she is a lefty on the right side.
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan on playing in College? (If so, which ones are you looking at?)
While I am a student first and plan on attending a college that will challenge me intellectually, I absolutely plan on playing volleyball in college. I love playing the game, and I look forward to continuing to be a student athlete after I graduate from high school.
Do you play Club volleyball? If so, tell us about your experience.
I have played club volleyball for the past 3 years. My first year of club volleyball was with CJVA. I have played with VB RAGS for the last 2 seasons. I was on a national team all 3 years, and played up in age groups for 2 of those years. Since moving to VB RAGS, I have played for Coach Carly Rivera. Last year we played in the USVA national tournament in Indianapolis. It was amazing to play against the best teams in the country. This year I played on Coach Carly’s 17-1 national team. We won the Miami Beach Volleyfest tournament in February and qualified for nationals. Unfortunately due to the virus, the USAV national tournament was canceled, and we weren’t able to play.
Which team last season was the toughest that you faced and why?
Two of our toughest competitors were Caldwell and Mount Saint Mary. Both schools had an amazing offensive game. Mount Saint Mary had a tall team that put up some big blockers. Our team has some good hitters, and if we learn to run faster plays, I’m sure we will play well against big blockers. As for Caldwell, as long as we keep up our serving and maintain a tight defense I think we have a shot at beating them.
Tell us about your high school coach? Club Coach?
MKA’s head coach, Molli Dowd, was great for me as an incoming Freshman last year. She knows the game well, she’s patient and really supported me, helping me with my confidence and adaptability on the court. My VB RAGS coach, Carly Rivera, has been instrumental in helping me with my mechanics and all aspects of the game. I appreciate the interest he has taken in me and all the girls he coaches. He is an amazing coach and mentor for me.
Who is your support group?
Some of my biggest supporters are my Mom, Dad, and sister. My Mom and Dad put up with my hectic schedule and get me everywhere I need to go whether it is local or somewhere in the country. They are very supportive, and always demonstrate it by being at all of my games, cheering for me on the court, and watching me on video back home. My sister is a soccer player and a great trooper who will practice with me. She puts up with me pounding balls at her and correcting her every move when we play in the backyard together. Also, both of my coaches are very supportive of me and are always there for me and very open. I am grateful for their help and support. Finally, my teammates have been really supportive, too. I have made some great friends and I really appreciate the older girls with whom I have played who always accepted me and helped me.
How are you and your family dealing with current world situation with COVID-19? Are you expecting a normal Fall high school season schedule?
I am very fortunate that neither I nor anyone in my family has been sick. My family and I have been taking it one day at a time with this virus and are very keen on following the CDC and its guidelines. As much as we wish to do what we want, we wear masks, wash our hands, and stay socially distanced. The summer isn’t what we would have liked, but we are doing the best we can and enjoying family time.
I think it is a 50/50 shot right now as to whether the volleyball season happens. If we play, I believe that our season will be different, possibly with a smaller roster, shorter season, no fans, and constant check-ups.
Have you won any awards such as All County or All State or others?
Last year as a Freshman I was selected by NJ.com as a ‘Top Freshman’ in the state and a ‘Top Underclassmen’ in the state. I was All Conference 2nd team, MKA’s volleyball Rookie of the Year, and a MKA Athlete of the Week. I am very happy to have been given all these awards in my first high school season.
What is your favorite inspirational video that you like to watch before games?
Before every game, I have a ritual. I put my headphones in and listen to a specific playlist. The last song I play is always the same one. I always take 3 deep breaths, close my eyes, clear my mind and exhale thinking of nothing but the game. For me, it is always about getting in the right mindset before the game, and I do that through listening to music.
What do you do during the off-season to stay in shape and prepare for next year?
A teacher I once had said, ‘if you truly are committed to your sport, there is no off-season’. High school pre-season starts in mid-August and we play through early November. In mid-November club practices begin and the season ends after the national tournament in early July. This year I started doing strength training, and I played some beach volleyball this summer. I used to play basketball and softball in school, but last year I decided to focus on volleyball.