Ridgefield sophomore setter Kohana Fukuchi leads by example on the court and in the classroom
RIDGEFIELD — She sets her standards.
She sets her goals.
Oh, and she does not settle.
The Ridgefield Spudders knew they had a special volleyball talent when Kohana Fukuchi became the setter last season as a freshman, when the Spudders would go on to finish third at state.
They also learned of her drive, her dedication to academics, and her mission to uplift, encourage all those around her.
Now a sophomore, Fukuchi has been named one of the team captains for one of the best teams in Class 2A Washington.
It starts with those standards. Fukuchi always earned top marks in elementary school, the best grades in middle school, and recorded a 4.0 grade-point average as a freshman at Ridgefield.
“I proved to myself I could get a 4.0. Why do anything less?” she said. “I feel better about myself when I just give it my all. It’s useless for me if I don’t try.”
She takes that philosophy with her to the volleyball court, too.
“I have high expectations for myself. But when it comes to volleyball, we’re not perfect. When I play, I play to the best of my ability, though. When I screw up, I get upset with myself. I’m not hard on my teammates, but I’m really hard on myself.”
No, with her teammates, she is always positive, the rock. Such a calming influence, in fact, that her coach just had to make it official.
“Naturally, she just fits as a captain,” Sabrina Dobbs said, noting that when things go wrong, she can always count of Fukuchi. “She just always puts that stuff aside and is always there to support. I appreciate a girl like that. I have never seen her negative.
“She’s my volleyball spirit animal.”
Still, it took a second or two for Fukuchi to realize what had happened with the coach named her a captain, along with teammates Delaney Nicoll and Kameryn Reynolds.
“I didn’t know what to feel. I was nervous. That’s a big weight on my shoulders as a sophomore,” Fukuchi said. “But I was super excited, too, because I can be be a good leader. I’m just glad I was able to get this opportunity. It’s not just being a captain, but to have a purpose.”
For her, it means helping to organize the weekly team get-togethers and talks. It also means being there to listen to a teammate.
Fukuchi talks about the commitments made by every member of the team to be part of this group. They all deal with school, then practice, plus cross-fit training, and, of course, matches. They are together six days a week.
“Sometimes I can get overwhelmed,” Fukuchi said, adding that she knows she is not alone.
Together, though, they can get through trying times.
“Delaney, Kameryn, and I really want to comfort our team,” Fukuchi said. “Every single minute together counts. It’s going to get us to where we want to go, which is state.”
Fukuchi acknowledged that while performing well at state is the ultimate goal, getting to state has to be the focus.
The Spudders play in one of the toughest leagues in the state. And then the toughest district. Through the years, District 4 is full of horror stories of quality volleyball teams that did not advance.
“We have to get past district to even think about state,” Dobbs warned.
So far, though, the Spudders look to be a force. They opened the season by sweeping two Class 4A programs. And they are off to a fast start in the 2A Greater St. Helens League, winning their first four matches, including a win over rival Woodland.
They are not taking anything for granted, though.
“Every team is better,” Dobbs said, noting Columbia River, Washougal, and of course, traditional power Woodland.
That victory over the Beavers was big, but only for a night.
“Never let a win get to your head,” Fukuchi said. “That was a fast happiness. But we have to move on from that. That was awesome but we have to play them again. We were happy but we never bragged about it.”
Much of the success for a team can be attributed to its setter. Fukuchi embraces the responsibility of the position.
“You run everything. You have to talk to your passers. You have to talk to your hitters. You have to talk to everyone on the court,” she said. “You play out the play in your head before the ball is even served.”
As a captain, as a leader, she knows she is just a part of a volleyball machine.
“It really helps when you have passers and hitters like I do,” she said.
It is all the Spudders. Not the one senior on the team. Not the hitters. Not the libero. It is all of them who will determine the outcome of the season.
“We’re super competitive and push each other to be better but there is no jealousy. We’re all happy for each other about our accomplishments,” Fukuchi said. “We play as one team. Not a single one of us plays as an individual.”
The Spudders don’t even describe their roles as starting positions or reserves. There are only six on the court at once, but they are all together.
“We have a strong starting 13,” Fukuchi said.