Wellesley Athlete of the Week is made possible with sponsorship support from Deland, Gibson Insurance. The family-owned and operated business has carried on this Wellesley tradition for over 30 years.
Athlete of the Week: Maiwenn Kamdje, a junior on the girls’ volleyball team
Biggest role model: My older brother who is at Colby College
Best thing about volleyball: Building both relationships and friendships
Fun activities outside of volleyball: Hanging out with friends, a cappella, and coaching youth camps
Goals for the season: State Championship!
The Wellesley High School girls’ varsity volleyball team has been dominating rivals this season. Led by junior hitter Maiwenn Kamdje, the Raiders have surged to an impressive 7-4 record and are ranked 20th in the state. Kamdje has been the most prolific scorer for the Raiders, spiking volleyballs on opponents, and leading the team to victory.
Kamdje’s impact on the team is even more impressive given that she is a relative newcomer to the sport. She began playing volleyball in 8th grade.
“I rarely played volleyball because for a while I was a part of the theater group. In 8th grade, I ended up deciding to switch over and it was hard, but a decision that I am very thankful to have made,” she said.
Starting later than most of her teammates who had played for many years might have discouraged others, but not Kamdje. Instead, she practiced harder. Leading up to her freshman year of high school, Kamdje practiced with her older brother who also played volleyball for Wellesley High. Kamdje learned a lot from her brother, whom she noted is “a great coach,” and her “biggest role model.”
Kamdje’s hard work paid off during her freshman year. Despite her relative inexperience, she earned a spot on the junior varsity team and demonstrated her potential to the varsity head coach, Fabian Ardila. Ardila noticed the raw power and skill that Kamdje possessed and recalled that “her power has stood out through the years, especially when I first saw her as a freshman. She hits at 45MPH, which is unheard of at the high school level.”
Ardila was struck by Kamdje’s raw talent and potential to play with the best. He recommended that she consider joining a club team to get to practice and play with elite players. Kamdje embraced this idea.
Kamdje went to the gym every day after school to practice for her school and club tryouts. She easily made the MGA volleyball club and was immediately moved up a year because of her abilities. As a 14-year-old she competed with and against 15/16-year-olds. She loved the experience so much that she dedicated even more time to the sport throughout the summer and year-round.
Her hard work has established Kamdje as an elite player at the national level. As a 16-year-old she now regularly competes against the country’s best 17- and 18-year-olds. She travels across the country to showcase her skills against Division 1, 2, and 3 recruits. Recent trips included tournaments in Florida, Connecticut, Georgia, Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois
Dominating in tournaments this summer, Kamdje piqued the interest of numerous D1 college coaches. Early in her junior year, she has already received many D1 offers.
Kamdje has continued her dominance during this fall season. One of her best games came against a highly skilled Weston team. After the Raiders lost the first two games during the best-of-5 series, Kamdje scored more than 20 kills (spikes) in the last 3 games, leading Wellesley to a thrilling comeback victory.
For reference, an above-average high school player gets about 10 kills a game. Kamdje had another spectacular performance against Westwood where she controlled the whole game. Working with setter Grace Alan, Kamdje had 33 kills, securing yet another win for the Raiders.
While many look up to Kamdje as a skilled player, her teammates also view her as an exceptional leader. She welcomes the challenge of creating a fun and hardworking team. “Maiwenn is… extremely likable and a great leader… Maiwenn corrals the team during time outs injecting positive energy, and getting them to elevate their play when down in games,” said Ardila.
Kamdje is a humble leader who puts the team first. She views the team as “one big leader.” She says: “We don’t only focus on volleyball but also on helping each other with personal issues. This could range from school to friends. I think that the team has succeeded because of how close we are with each other and how it’s more of a family than a team.”
The tight-knit Raider squad, with Kamdje at the helm, is poised to repeat its state tournament appearance from last year. With the talent and chemistry on the team, they expect to make a deep run and seem well-positioned to do so.
Article written by John Battaglino, Bradford ‘24