Something intangible -- call it fate, call it chance -- brought them together. But it's something tangible -- a coach, smarts, drive -- that keeps them together.
"My belief is there's always a reason or purpose for something like this," said Skyview volleyball coach Sheila Kupferschmid of the teaming up of seniors Christina Colvin, Jenny Carpenter and Nynke Salverda. "This group is a special group. I hope in the end it comes together for them and for the whole team."
Three years ago, Colvin was the only one of the three enrolled at Skyview. As a sophomore, Carpenter transferred to Skyview from Soldotna. Finally, the most unlikely link of the trio came this year, when Salverda, who stands 6-foot-2, came over from Holland as a foreign exchange student.
"It's weird how we all just kind of came together," Carpenter said.
Finding much in common, the three bonded on the floor quickly this year and have been a major factor in Skyview being among the top teams in the state all season. Last weekend, the Panthers finished fifth at the 23-team Dimond/Service Invitational.
The trio's bond became particularly apparent at the Peninsula Challenge volleyball tournament in late September. Due to a conflict with homecoming festivities, Kupfer-schmid gave the Panthers the option of skipping the tournament.
All the varsity players did, except for Colvin, Carpenter and Salverda. The trio joined up with four Skyview C-team players and still managed to go 14-2 over the course of the tournament and finish third.
"They're all goal-oriented, and I believe in goals," Kupferschmid said. "If you're going to be successful, you have to have a vision and something to strive for."
The three have shown aptitude for taking this attitude off the court as well. All are outstanding students.
Colvin, who also is involved in student council and the National Honors Society, has a 4.0 grade point average and is thinking about a career in communications or journalism.
Carpenter, who also is involved in the National Honors Society, has a 3.866 GPA and is interested in entering the medical field.
Salverda is only 16, but she's considered a senior because she is a foreign exchange student. She completed two years of school in one year when she was a 4-year-old in Holland, and remains a year ahead in the Dutch school system. She says all of her classes here are easy, except for an advanced-placement English class.
Although the three fit together nicely as an entity, each has their own story to tell.
Colvin did not start playing volleyball until her eighth-grade year at Soldotna Middle School, where the setter was -- of all people -- Carpenter.
"It surprised me how well she adapted to volleyball," Colvin's mother, Cecilia, said. "She's an athlete, though, and she's got a drive in her.
"When she tries something, she's successful at it because she's so determined."
Basketball was always Colvin's main sport, but that changed before her sophomore year in high school, when she spent the summer in open gym with Kupferschmid learning to be a setter.
"There's a saying that says your team is as good as your setter," Kupferschmid said. "The setter runs the offense, and she's touching the ball every time it comes over the net.
"I look for three things in the setter position -- she's got to be vocal, a hard-worker and an athlete. Christina has all three of those qualities. To me, she's the best setter in the state."
As a starter, Colvin has helped the Panthers to state the last two years. As a junior, she was named the Region III/4A Southern Division player of the year. Colvin also helped lead Skyview to a runner-up finish in the state as a junior, and was named all-state for her efforts.
Her sets are so quick and crisp that her own teammates -- not to mention the defense of the other team -- can have problems keeping up.
"She decides what she's going to do whether I'm there or not," Salverda said. "And sometimes, I'm not where I'm supposed to be."
Colvin would like to play volleyball in college.
Carpenter started playing volleyball as a seventh-grader at Soldotna Middle School. Like Colvin, basketball used to be Carpenter's main sport. But that started changing once she enrolled at Skyview as a sophomore.
"I figured it would be better for me academically, athletically and socially if I came here, and it's worked out," she said.
Carpenter was a front-row player as sophomore on Skyview's varsity. She worked hard on her back-row play the summer before her junior year, and it paid off as she earned all-state honors. This year, she was the most valuable player at the Grace Tournament.
"Her defense just comes from hard work and seeing a lot of balls in the summer," Kupferschmid said. "To be good at defense, you need that relentless, attacking mind-set, and she has that."
That relentless mind-set also is on display when it comes time for Carpenter to attack.
"I have so much confidence in her," Colvin said. "She's always there for me, whether I need somebody to put the ball away or to just get the ball over the net."
Carpenter's mom, Cindy, has enjoyed watching the Colvin-Carpenter chemistry evolve over the years.
"They communicate really well together," Cindy said. "They're both good students, and I think in that way they relate well together."
Carpenter also would like to play volleyball in college.
Finally, Salverda completes the group. Even with returning all-state players Carpenter and Colvin, Kupferschmid said she was looking for a rebuilding year at the beginning of the season. Salverda plugged a big hole in the middle and changed that.
Salverda has had an impact even though she doesn't have a ton of volleyball experience. In Holland, she was on a volleyball club, meaning she practiced two times every week and played on Saturdays. Now, she practices 2 1/2 hours every day.
Kupferschmid marvels at how quickly Salverda has improved her defense, an area she didn't have to worry about in Holland.
"At 16 and 6-2, she has a tremendous amount of potential," Kupferschmid said. "(The University of Alaska Anchorage) has already asked about her."
Salverda has helped the Panthers mentally as well as physically, loosening the team up in critical moments.
"She's a goof ball," Colvin said. "On the court, she's smiling on every play."
Just as Salverda has fit in on the team, she's rapidly adjusted to the United States, although she laments that this country does not have nearly the licorice selection of Holland.
"Everything she does, she just kind of fits in," said Stan Standridge, who is one of Salverda's host parents. "She's a special girl.
"She's smart and family oriented. It's like I have another daughter."
Salverda has not decided whether she will try to play volleyball at a college in the United States or return to Holland to attend college.
"All three of them have just been so good for the Skyview volleyball program," Kupferschmid said. "I would hope the young kids watch them and model their character.
"They show that hard work and hours in the gym does pay off."
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