For 23 years, Collin Henry has coached the girls volleyball team at Ethical Culture Fieldston School. In that span, he never had anything like this year’s undefeated team, nor the individual talent of one player in particular.
That person is Henry’s daughter, Olivia, a 6-foot-4 freshman who has taken the local high school volleyball circuit by storm. She is one of three freshmen playing on the varsity team at Fieldston this season.
Olivia has dreamed of this moment for a while. She had grown up playing in the gym at Fieldston — both as an apprentice to the Fieldston players her dad coached and as a member of the All Star Empire Volleyball Club founded by Collin.
“I knew the team because I had been Fieldston my whole life,” Olivia said. “When I first stepped on the court with them, it was as if we had been playing all this time.”
Henry’s on-court impact has added to what was already a talented team led by five seniors. The Eagles navigated an undefeated 22-game regular season. The goal is to get back to the NYSAIS title game where Fieldston has advanced to 15 times under the leadership of Collin Henry. The Eagles have won eight of them, with the ninth in sight.
“We are all really connected and play with the same intensity,” Olivia said. “We have one goal which is to win the championship.”
Olivia is not only the top player in the state for her grade, but is highly ranked on the national level. She received the best rating of five stars from Vballrecruiter, which is a high school volleyball news website. Olivia has attended camps at University of Florida and Pennsylvania State University. She plans to attend more college camps next summer.
With the attention building, she is trying to focus on her freshman year without letting the college process take over just yet.
“A lot of people ask me that question but I haven’t really thought of it yet,” Olivia said. “I haven’t been exposed to every college yet.”
While considered an outside hitter by scouts, Olivia prides herself on being a versatile player with no preferred strengths. She is in the 95th percentile of current Division I female volleyball players in terms of height and other athletic traits, including reach and jump touch.
“Her skills are in a very good place for her age and her knowledge of the game is impeccable,” Collin said.
There is no denying where Olivia’s height came from. Collin is 6-foot-6 and arrived at Queens College from Jamaica on a volleyball scholarship. He also played at Concordia College and appeared in games for the Jamaica National Team for 15 years.
Olivia’s mother, Agatha Henry, is 5-foot-11 and she played volleyball and ran track and field at Queens College.
“I didn’t think she was going to be this tall honestly,” Collin said. “I started to prepare her early so while she grew her body would be ready to handle the size she might be.”
Before her father began instilling specific volleyball principles, a young Olivia would practice to the side of the Fieldston practice, keeping herself busy in the corner by hitting balls and jumping over cones. By the time she was six, Olivia was already ahead of the curve and wanted to play club volleyball.
“She would watch what I do with the girls,” Collin said. “She was very creative at a young age in terms of watching and following on her own.”
The National Team Development Program has already enlisted her services. This December, Olivia will rejoin the program in Anaheim for a few days. Even though she is only 14, Olivia admits she has the Olympics on her radar.
“I learned a lot and I try to bring back some of that experience to my team now in high school,” Olivia said of training with the national team prospects. “I am trying to teach them the way the USA plays.”
Despite the pressure that can come from being so highly rated, Olivia views her own journey in volleyball as a pursuit bigger than herself. She stays true to that through her work with the Big Sister Little Sister program at Fieldston which allows her to impart her skills and knowledge on younger players.
“I don’t play for myself,” Olivia said. “I play for the people around me.”
The support from her teachers, teammates, and school community is tangible too. Olivia is thankful to call Fieldston home.
“It’s really nice being part of the Fieldston community. It’s really fun and everyone is connected in some way.”