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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 28, 2011

Bjork setting herself and team up nicely

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Libby Bjork’s middle name is Ananya, which means “one like no other” in Thai. The rising sophomore and volleyball star from Voorheesville was adopted from a foster home in Bangkok, Thailand at age 2.

Last Friday, Bjork, now 15, sat on a comfy couch in her New Scotland home, trying to remember something from that day when she arrived in America. She tried to extract thoughts, but nothing came to mind.

“I don’t really know the Thai language anymore,” said Bjork. “I’m proud of my heritage, but I’ve lived here for so long. My mom says that I talk Thai in my sleep.”

Mary Bjork, sitting next to her daughter, said that it’s “a little freaky.” Both of them chuckled.

Already with a full résumé of volleyball accolades and interest from Division I colleges such as UCLA and Baylor, Libby Bjork was eagerly awaiting her trip to Tuscon, Ariz. on Sunday. She’ll be there until July 31, competing in the High Performance International Championship Games as starting setter for the Iroquois Empire Volleyball Association Select travel team.

Bjork, who’s been on Voorheesville’s varsity squad since eighth grade, made the High Performance team after a tryout in Saratoga in March. Coach Sue Medley liked how she ran a fast offense, she said. Bjork recently spent a week practicing with the team in Lake Placid at the Olympic Training Center.

“I think it’s a real challenge,” said Bjork. The International Championship has teams from all 50 states, as well as representation from China, Chili, Peru, Brazil, and Canada. “I’m excited,” she said. “I’ve already learned new setting skills.”

Fast start

Picking up volleyball at age 9, Bjork got going quickly. She played on the North Country Albany Juniors with girls who were three to five years older, including her sister, Sarah, who also played for Voorheesville. The team ended up going to Minnesota for the Junior Olympic Championships.

It was intimidating at first to be on a team with older girls, Bjork told The Enterprise. She was small, but had a big serve. “I was put on a younger team after that,” she said. “I got used to being the youngest one. People treated me well, so it didn’t take long to not be intimidated.”

The Lady Birds’ varsity team made Bjork its manager when she was in fifth grade and she eventually made the team a few years later. “I just love playing,” she said. “It’s competitive and moves real fast. Everyone is so happy to be playing together.”

Bjork was named a New York State All Star for Class C after her Voorheesville team played in the state finals against Falconer. She was responsible for setting up her teammates, who crushed the ball, going undefeated until that final match in Glens Falls.

Being a setter in volleyball is like playing chess. The setter has to think two moves down the line.

“The difference between a good setter and a great one is knowing what’s happening on the other side of the net,” Bjork said. “It’s hard to know everything, but you get a feeling of what’s going to happen.”

Good luck charm

Volleyball is a year-long obligation for Bjork. School ball runs from August to November and then she plays with Lakeside Volleyball Club from November until Memorial Day. After that, she’s with IREVA while simultaneously preparing for the Voorheesville season with teammates and four University at Albany players.

Lakeside consists of seven hours of practice time a week and tournaments on the weekends. For the Blackbirds, Bjork practices 15 hours a week on top of 16 matches in two months.

Besides all of that, Bjork finds time to play trumpet, be social, be secretary of student government, and hold down a 96.46 average in school.

“Volleyball doesn’t define me, it’s just fun for right now,” said Bjork. “I love to play, and I play a lot, but I find time to focus on other things.”

Colleges can’t officially recruit high-school athletes until their junior year, but Bjork isn’t even sure if she would want to play in college. She read the letters from UCLA and Baylor and plans on filling out the questionnaires. “Sports take up a ton of time in college,” she said. “I don’t want to miss anything.”

Bjork still has three years of high school left, but she’s played much more volleyball than the average 15-year-old ever would. She hopes to try for the United States International team, which plays in different countries.

“Some people think that this sport isn’t hard, but then they watch and understand,” Bjork said. “Keeping a team together is the hardest part. When the energy is low, it affects everybody.”

Voorheesville’s energy was through the roof last fall. Bjork’s teammates nicknamed her “Budda,” rubbing her belly before every match.

“I made them do it,” said Bjork. “It was our good luck charm.”

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