October 25, 2021 – By NJP

It’s been a breakout season for Tenafly junior Sofia Bell. She is a hitting machine that is equally effective from the middle or from the pins. She hits with power and can do this above the block, using her height and jumping ability to make her attacks so difficult to defend against. Tenafly setter Meghan Koehler directs her attack through the Tigers two main weapons, Sofia and junior outside hitter Rylie Theuerkauf. The duo has the ability to absolutely dominate game tempo and once Tenafly build momentum, they can be unstoppable.

Tenafly has one of the most difficult schedules in the state playing in the Big North. They have lost to #1 Demarest three times this season representing almost half of their losses. Old Tappan, Northern Highlands, and Pascack Valley are the other losses for this season, all top teams in the North. They are much better than their 13-7 record indicates and have been streaky all season losing 4 of their first 5 matches, then winning 8 in a row, then dropping three before their current 4 game win streak. They face Paramus tomorrow in the North 1 Group 3 first round state playoff match. NJP has them as favorites in that match.

Sofia calls Pinnacle Volleyball Club her home in the off season. With the experience she will gain from the full club season, she will be well prepared to pick it back up for the Tigers in the Fall.

What is so interesting about Tenafly’s team this season is that all of their varsity starters are sophomores and juniors. However this season ends, the Tenafly players have much to look forward to next season. Sofia is getting better and better, and we think she will blow fans away next season as a senior, especially teaming again with junior setter Meghan Koehler and junior outside Rylie Theuerkauf. All three of these stars as seniors will create a perfect storm for the Tigers and the potential for an outstanding campaign.

Here is our interview with Ms. Bell…

How are you, Sofia? Thanks for joining the NJP player interview club. Tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m Sofia Bell and I am currently a Junior at Tenafly High School and am part of the graduating class 2023. I live in Tenafly, NJ with my parents and my two younger brothers. The rest of my family is in Spain since it is where my parents are from and where I grew up as a child. 

How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially? I started volleyball in 7th grade, so about 5 years ago. I’ve always been a dancer and it was something I was extremely dedicated to. But, when Meghan Koehler; Coach Koehler’s daughter, told me to try volleyball I decided to give it a shot since I was tall, and all our friends were participating. After finishing that fall season, I quit dance completely and signed myself up for clubs, clinics, and extra strength training. Since that year, volleyball has become one of my greatest passions. 

What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What is your favorite position to play?

I am 5’10” with a vertical of 9’2″. I’ve always been a middle for the school and club team since 7th grade up until this fall when I played mostly outside after Zuzanna Buchnajzer, or Zuzi as we called her, graduated. I still play middle and even right side for a few rotations for Tenafly. To be honest, I can’t choose a favorite position; anything that involves hitting makes me happy. Outside is great since you’re always getting set, a strong middle hit feels empowering like nothing else, and the right side involves backup setting, which I love doing too! 

Tell us about your Tiger teammates. Who has been this year’s standout players during this season?

After Zuzanna Buchnajzer (Zuzi) graduated, the whole team has done a great job of stepping up to collectively fill in the presence she had on not only our team but the county and state. We all know what role we play for the team, so we make sure to step up when it comes time play. We consider ourselves to be not only a volleyball team, but a family. 

NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state, especially for your class year. Do you plan on playing in college? (If so, which ones are you looking at? What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?

I never really thought of playing volleyball in college until this past spring when club and school volleyball overlapped due to the pandemic. I definitely have more confidence in myself as a player and what I can do for the team and will be looking to play in college. I have started looking for colleges, but my academics are my priority, so I am trying to find a school with good academics as well as a volleyball team that fits what I’m looking for. As of now, I am very interested in Forensics and Psychology, so any career path involving these topics would be amazing. 

You are approaching 100 kills for your junior year.  What are your goals for your remaining high school career at Tenafly?

I hope that by the time I am a senior, I have been able to play my hardest and truly show the passion I have for this sport every time I step onto the court. After my class of 2023 graduates, which is the entire starting lineup for this year, I hope that we all left a strong influence on the younger girls as to how to lead this amazing program we have built over the years. Playing volleyball is truly something that I will miss being able to do when I am much older, and I hope that these younger generations learn to appreciate the sport for the great memories and experiences it will give each and every one of them. 

Tell us about your team’s head coach Jeff Koehler?

Coach Koehler is great in the way that he always pushes every single one of his players to reach their full potential. When he’s hard on us it’s because he knows we can do better, and he truly wants the best for us. Whether it’s on or off the court, he’s constantly giving us inspirational quotes and advice to keep a good mindset for the season. Koehler gives us that final push that we all need to come together as a team and give our all on the court. 

Tell us about your 8-game win streak and the elements that made you so successful during that stretch of games.

I am extremely proud of everyone on the team for stepping up and playing the role they have on this team, whether it is new or not. We were able to go on this streak because of everyone’s determination to keep our name known after last year’s season and bring that into this year’s. We have done so well and continue to grow game after game. 

Being in the Big North, you play many of the top teams in NJ. Which team has been the strongest as your opponent this season of Demarest, Pascack Valley, Northern Highlands, Old Tappan, or others?

I would say that NVD has been our toughest competition this year. They are and have always been a very good team and I respect them so much. They give our entire program motivation to do better, since NVD is usually “the team to beat”. 

Your current team is made up of 6 juniors and a sophomore. Tell us about the possibilities for next season as you return the entire squad. Do you expect a big influx of new players to the squad?

Our team is definitely something very unique. As I mentioned earlier, our class of 2023 is extremely talented in volleyball and makes up a large part of the varsity team. Most of us were on the court when we won the State Sectional Championship last spring. This gives us an advantage since we have been playing together since 7th grade and have great chemistry on and off the court. I would call this season a “transition year” since we are getting used to some new positions and roles, but I definitely think that next season, our Senior year will be one to remember. As for rising players, we do have two more Juniors on JV that will be coming up to Varsity as well as two sophomores that were floaters this year and another sophomore who had great potential for this season but unfortunately got injured during the preseason.  

Tell us about the coaches or mentors that have positively influenced your volleyball career…

Besides Coach Koehler of Tenafly, my club coach for Pinnacle Volleyball Academy, Linda Chu has definitely had the largest impact on me as a player. Coach Linda coached me during my 15-1 and 16-1 years. I loved having her both seasons since she was able to see my growth as a player and a young individual throughout two whole years. This was definitely an advantage since she was able to give me advice on and off the court and has shaped me into being the athlete I am today. 

What are your other hobbies or interests?

As hard as it is to make time with such a busy schedule, I really do enjoy spending time with my younger brothers whether it’s baking, dancing, singing, watching a movie, or anything else. Hanging out with them allows me to forget the worries I have of growing older; they remind me of what being a kid was like. 

What one word describes you best?

Passionate

How does athletics make you a better student or worker? 

I’ve learned how to handle working in situations being under pressure or in groups and knowing how to perform well in any task giving by being able to easily use what I already know to adjust to new environments.

Rank the top five priorities currently in your life.

  1. My health; physical and mental 
  2. Family 
  3. Academics
  4. Guide/plan for the future
  5. Volleyball

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: