Appreciating the Present
Senior year is filled with untamable anticipation for what’s to come. Sometimes, seniors can be so focused on the future that they miss what’s right in front of them. There are lots of “lasts” that come and go senior year that many students can leave unappreciated until long after they’re gone. Last trips to Subway for lunch, last bus rides home from away games, and last pre-game jitters are all moments that seniors, wrapped up in college selections and what they’re going to major in, and whether they’d like their college winters to be 9 or 89 degrees, can take for granted. This feeling of indifference can affect classroom performance as well–papers go unfinished, projects get put off, and high school begins to be a thing of the past before it’s really finished.
That’s not the case for PCA seniors, Joey Skubisz and Maddy Kniphfer. Enrolling at PCA in 5th grade, Maddy and Joey have become essential parts of the school’s student body. Joey is a Small Group Leader at the high school, a co-captain of this year’s varsity volleyball team, an Academic Prefect and a member of PCA’s Honors Orchestra. Maddy is also a small group leader and sits behind the plate as Varsity Softball’s starting catcher. While their athletic performances have garnered lots of attention this year, it’s the impact they’re making in the classroom that makes them truly special.
Joey and Maddy pose for Varsity Volleyball’s Media Day.
“Rarely have I seen a student so dedicated to overcoming challenges and reaching their potential.” says Maddy’s math teacher, Mrs. Shoemaker. “Every year she goes above and beyond to understand the concepts in our math classes. Her willingness to humble herself and seek help is a character trait I wish every student would have. Maddy is hard working, respectful, and passionate. She’s a role model to the younger female athletes at our school, and it’s been a joy for me to see her take that role seriously.”
“Joey and Maddy are exceptional, naturally gifted athletes but they bring much more to our program than their abilities to hit a volleyball. They both have helped establish a culture within our program of caring, respect, hard work and, most importantly, glory to God. They are leaders by example and play the game hard, leaving all effort out on the court. They have earned the respect and admiration of their teammates, coaches, and opponents as evidenced by the various awards and accolades they have acquired.” says Varsity Volleyball coach, Kevin Carreiro.
“For the past 6 years, I have had the great joy and privilege of watching these young women grow in faith and mature into well-respected individuals. Both of them are as passionate about the game of volleyball as they are about those they share the court with. They have consistently placed the team’s goals first and the result was one of the most successful seasons in our program’s history.”
Skubisz and Kniphfer await the final point in this year’s NHIAA Division III Quarterfinal Match vs. Trinity High
Crushing It On the Court
Skubisz and Kniphfer not only uplifted their peers in the classroom, they also helped carry Varsity Volleyball to its first Final Four since 2007.
“Joey is a power hitter, fast and versatile.”, says Coach Carreiro of Skubisz. “She has an impressive vertical which allows her to contact the ball much higher than the opposing team’s block, allowing her to exploit the opponent’s defense. She has spent much of her career as a defensive-minded middle-blocker and was quickly approaching the career blocks record. Entering this season, we moved her to the outside to take advantage of her power as a hitter and consistent passing. In doing so, she led the team offensively, nearly breaking the single-season kills record.”
“Maddy is also a speedy, well-rounded player with great versatility. She has been a libero for most of her career tallying over 350 varsity digs. She has tremendous court coverage and can get to virtually any ball that is hit to her side of the court. This year she stepped into the role of setter and, in much the same way, she managed to track down nearly every second ball no matter where it was passed. Her serving abilities have improved year after year and has become dominant to the point that she could take sole control of a set from the service line.”
Joey Skubisz hammers home a kill.
The two seniors were absolutely critical to the team’s regular season and postseason success, accumulating a lengthy list of accolades and accomplishments over the 2021 campaign.
Skubisz was named to the AVCA All-Region Team, becoming the first New Hampshire volleyball player to earn the recognition since its inception in 2006. She was named AVCA Player of the Week on two separate occasions, becoming the fourth player in school history to earn the recognition. joining Ashley Vining ’17, Becca Jones ’20 and most recently Lindsey Hatfield ’21.
Joey was also the first in school history to do it twice in one season.
Joey was also named the Granite State Conference Player of the Year for Division III, again, a first for PCA Volleyball. Finally, Joey finished her career as one of the best to ever do it at PCA, her 192 Season Kills and 364 Career Kills are the second all-time in school history.
Kniphfer was named to the Granite State Conference All-Conference Team for her efforts this season, finishing her volleyball career in possession of three school records. Kniphfer walks off the court for the last time as PCA’s record-holder in career aces with 201, season aces with 106, and season assists with 355.
Both seniors were named First-Team All-State by the New Hampshire Volleyball Coaches Association. Both were named Senior All-Stars in the state of New Hampshire. And, their 62 career matches are at the top of the all-time list at Portsmouth Christian Academy.
As icing on the cake, the 2021 Varsity Volleyball Team received the NHVCA Team Academic Award, maintaining above a 3.0 GPA. They also received the NHVCA Community Service Award for giving back through funds raised or hours of service completed during the 2021-2022 volleyball season.
Maddy Kniphfer sets for Joey Skubisz in NHIAA action
Reflecting on the Past
“Honestly it feels so amazing and exciting.”, says Kniphfer of holding 3 of the school’s all-time records.
“I would not be here if it wasn’t for my amazing coaches that have helped me grow in my skills. This year I was going in with an open mind. I was the libero for three years in a row, but, in club season I was a setter, so it opened up new horizons for our playing this year. Honestly, I have grown to love this new position.”
When asked what drew her to play volleyball in the first place, Maddy says, “Ever since I was little I always looked up to the high school volleyball team. Going to their practices and just watching, shagging volleyballs, and just talking with them. Since then, I just have found a love and a passion for the sport and found that it is a great outlet for me. My mom also used to be a volleyball coach, and I wanted to be like her, so that really helped spark my passion to play.”
Flashback: Then 8th-grader, Kniphfer waits for the serve on PCA’s varsity junior high team.
Flashback: Then 8th-grader, Joey serves on PCA’s varsity junior high team.
“To be completely honest, neither of these achievements were ones I was striving for.”, says Joey of her numerous recognitions. “I was just focused on pouring my heart out into the sport that I love. When Coach Kevin told me that I was up for Player of the Year, I was surprised that this was really something within my reach. After our loss to Newfound, the news of officially earning the title of Player of the Year was exactly what I needed to show me God’s ultimate plan, love, and authority. Not long after this, hearing about being named to the All-Region Team brought me an excitement that I couldn’t contain. All-Region was something I never thought to be achievable. Playing at a D3 school, our players don’t get a lot of coverage or recognition on that scale. I was extremely blessed to have a coach who is my, and every one of my teammates’, biggest supporter. He got my name out there and made sure that my abilities were known– and to him, and for God’s work through him, I am unspeakably grateful.”
“I originally played because all of my friends were playing. After a few years of playing solely for that reason, I fell in love with the sport. I had played every sport you could imagine, but I had never felt the way about any of them the way I do about volleyball. When I got to high school and played with Coach Kevin, my love grew to a passion, and it continues to grow every time I touch a volleyball.”
Preparing for the Future
While Joey and Maddy have had exceptional careers at PCA, they both know that graduation is quickly approaching. Both are continuing to work hard in the classroom to set themselves up for success. Maddy and Joey were both named the AVCA’s Best and Brightest, an award given to volleyball players across the nation who maintain above a 3.0, demonstrating excellence on and off the court. Maddy and Joey were the only two volleyball players in the state of New Hampshire to receive the award.
Looking back, both girls are extremely appreciative of their student-experiences at Portsmouth Christian Academy.
“One thing that I will miss is the special close knit community that we all have here. I am going to miss all of the loving and dedicated teachers and the family that I have built here. My best advice that I could give to the underclassmen would be to lean on your peers and know that you have a huge support system that can help you no matter what.”, says Maddy. “PCA has been a huge part of my academic success. They always push us to make sure we are successful in whatever we do. After I graduate, I want to go to college for social work. I am extremely excited what God has planned for me and my future.”
Joey, looking into the field of neuroscience, was unapologetic about her love of learning. “Unashamed to sound like a complete nerd, I love school and I love to learn. This really helps me with my academics. I try to go into each class with a mindset that is ready to learn. I spend a lot of time on school work, but it pays off in the end. My top choice for college is Yale, and I am eagerly hoping for an acceptance–although it is a reach. PCA is an amazing school, and an even better community. We are blessed with such a wonderful faculty and staff who pour their hearts into each and every student.”
Joey also gave some advice to underclassmen to not look past high school before it’s over. “Cherish every Brookwoods (trip), cheering with your class. Every homecoming event, dressing to impress. Every moment spent singing random songs in the senior lounge. Every moment spent together is a moment you’re going to miss when you’re looking towards graduation–so cherish them all.”