Sam Cohen, Sports Writer

Standing at the net with her hand held high, she jumps and spikes the ball . She only started playing volleyball in sixth grade. Now 6 feet 3 inches tall, vocal senior Czhen Beneby’s love for an after-school activity evolved into a verbal commitment to play division one volleyball at the University of Virginia (UVA). 

“After I went to [visit] the campus over the summer, I fell in love [with UVA] and knew that was where I belonged,” Beneby said. She had seen the facilities while attending UVA’s volleyball program. 

Beneby would have never felt at home without the comfort and support from the other girls she met at the summer program. On and off of the court, she built relationships with them while improving her skills socially and athletically.

“My teammates treat me like their sisters,” Beneby said. “My coaches are amazing at what they do. UVA is an amazing place with a little bit of everything.” 

Within the past six years of playing volleyball, Beneby has not only learned about the game, but also about time management, an important skill for all student athletes to learn. Over time, balancing the stress of attending a school of the arts with her athletic passion became an easier feat.

“Time is a big deal,” Beneby said. “It’s hard to prioritize school work for extra volleyball practices and privates, let alone juggle my major and juries.”

Beneby has also gained confidence, among other traits, through her experiences on the court. The constant uplifting words of encouragement from her teammates, coaches, and her mom have increased Beneby’s self esteem. 

“[She is] a great team player: very goal-oriented and community-oriented, and truly focused,” Beneby’s mother Tracey Saunders said. 

Beneby’s journey as a volleyball player was also influenced by her Dreyfoos teammates, who have supported her along the way. Her past four years on the volleyball team have increased her playing time, making her a more focused player. 

“It’s really important to have easygoing chemistry while we play,” visual junior Julia Gonello said. “She definitely cares about her team and the score of the game she plays.” 

Having grown over the years, Beneby will say goodbye to her childhood volleyball experiences and friendships, as she looks forward to the upcoming school year and season as part of UVA’s Class of 2024.

“I’m constantly surrounded by intelligence there, and I’m so excited to attend and play Division I volleyball,” Beneby said.