From soccer to surfing, Sophie’s played it all

BP Photo By Emilie Benyowitz

Tamar Willis, Sports Editor

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Don’t be fooled by her ever-present smile—sophomore Sophie Ouaknine could kick your butt at any sport. Born into a family of athletes where playing sports is the norm, Sophie plays on Shalhevet’s volleyball and soccer teams and says soccer is her favorite sport—but she also plays basketball and loves to surf, snowboard and wakeboard.

“Sports come naturally to me,” said Sophie in an interview over pizza in the parking lot.  “They’re a good way to get away from my daily routine, and it helps alleviate my stress.  When I’m playing I just focus on the game, and everything else is on pause.  It’s just me and the sport.”

For Sophie, sports aren’t all about the win, but also about having fun.

“She’s always making us laugh during practice and games,” said sophomore Liat Bainvoll, who’s on the volleyball team.  “During one practice, Sophie and I were on the court and watching the ball, and before we knew it we were running straight into each other!  But we laughed a little, shook it off, and got our heads back in the game.”

As a forward for the soccer team and a hitter in volleyball, Sophie is constantly on the field or court.  Her teammates said she adds much to both.

“It was amazing to be able to play on a team with her,” said freshman Clare Hartman, who played the volleyball team with Sophie this year.  With Sophie’s help, the volleyball team made it all the way to playoffs for the second year in a row.
“She was very supportive and always in a good mood,” Clare said.  “If I needed help with something I knew I could go to her.”

To get pumped for games, Sophie listens to upbeat music by Avicii and Ellie Goulding. The night before game day, she makes sure to get plenty of sleep and drinks a lot of water so she’ll be able to stay hydrated.

As for soccer, co-captain Ariella Joffe said playing with Sophie was a “pleasure.”

“She’s so good even though she’s so young,” Ariella said.  “I can’t wait to see her improve and become even better.”

Sophie’s skills aren’t confined to just one area of each sport—in one of her recent soccer games, she played midfield, which she wasn’t used to.

“Our first game was rough on a lot of people,” said sophomore Liat Menna, who’s on the soccer team.   “After the game Sophie concluded that she hadn’t played as tough as she should. She told everyone to push her to be more aggressive.
“In the next game she really took her word for it and played much more aggressive, and fought for the ball to the best of her ability.”

Unfortunately, the soccer team still has yet to win a game, though according to several players, they’re improving.  Sophie attributes their losses to the fact that they still “need to work on their passing skills and get used to working as a team.”

Sophomore Rena Ohana, who played with Sophie last year in “4 Love of the Game,” remembered her as the team’s top scorer.

“Sophie basically was the team,” Rena said.  “The amount of goals she made was insane!  She saved us from losing so many times because of her amazing goals.”

Sophie herself has been playing on and off teams since before she can remember. When she was little, her family would play volleyball at the beach, which she says they still do, even though her siblings are all much older.

She picked up on wakeboarding — which is riding on a board that resembles a surfboard while being pulled along by a motorboat (riding in the boat’s wake) — on her second attempt.  In the summers she goes to the beach to surf and wakeboard, mostly with her brother David, and in the winter, she likes to snowboard—she’s been to both Mountain High and Mammoth, but prefers Mammoth because the mountain is bigger and there are more runs.  She mostly goes down intermediate runs but hopes to improve to “black diamond” (advanced) status.

Her ambition is what drives her to improve.

“I’m always looking to improve my games,” Sophie said.  “And after games, we always talk about how we can improve both as a team and individually which really helps.”

Sports are apparently in her genes. Her siblings, Hannah, 25, David, 23, and Karen, Shalhevet class of 2010, all play all kinds of sports, as does their father, Isaac.  Her three older siblings provide her with plenty of support and, when necessary, tips and pointers on how to improve.

Sophie’s brother David, who attended YULA, helped coach Shalhevet’s volleyball team this year. As well as being a student at Touro College, he coaches people of all ages, from little kids to middle-aged men.  Sophie’s other sister Hanna played volleyball and soccer at YULA too.

When not playing sports, Sophie likes to hang out with her friends and “chill.”  Her favorite subject in school is art, and she hopes to take AP art next year. She loves draw because it relaxes her, just like sports. Her friends prize her for the same qualities her teammates appreciate on the field.

“Sophie is always a really loyal friend,” said sophomore Hannah-Leeba Ellenhorn.  “I can see how that reflects how she works well with her teams, because she’s there to have their backs and she’s always ready to help a friend out.”
Sophie has been collecting trophies from both school and outside-school leagues since fifth grade, and she keeps them on her bedside table. But she says academics come first, so she’s constantly dividing her schedule between classes and practices or games.

“It’s hard to balance school and sports,” Sophie said.  “Sometimes I miss a lot of class and I have work to make up, but it’s worth it.  Sports are my escape.”

And though she clearly has no shortage of talent, Sophie understands that she won’t always make every goal, every shot, or every spike.  She admits that she needs to be a more aggressive player.

“In fifth grade, I was playing basketball, and there were three seconds left in the game, and we were losing by three points,” Sophie said.  “I tried to make a three-pointer to even the score, but I didn’t make it.”

Sophie said she’ll continue playing sports while at Shalhevet but doesn’t necessarily want to play sports professionally.  For now, she loves playing on Shalhevet’s sports teams.

“I’ve become a better player at Shalhevet,” Sophie said. “Plus it’s a great way to bond with classmates that aren’t necessarily in my grade.”

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