Manhattan Beach

They speak the same language

November 20, 2023 Andy Furman
The Kingsborough Community College lighthouse
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MANHATTAN BEACH — One was living in Barbados. The other arrived from Moscow.

And who knew – both ended up competing for the same team.

Volleyball, at Kingsborough Community College. But volleyball was as distant to both as their homelands to Brooklyn.

“I moved from Moscow at 18, on my own, and that was in June, 2011,” Alexandra Akopyan, the first-year Kingsborough volleyball coach told the Eagle. “The rest of my family – two sisters and my mom arrived later.”

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Akopyan says the language barrier was hard, at first, and the fact that she was extremely shy didn’t help her in communicating with people.

“When I got accepted to Kingsborough in 2012, my aunt really pushed me to find the athletics office and try out for volleyball.”

She did, and her first KCC team won the CUNY Championship and finished third in the Region. “We went 17-3, and our second year we were 15-7 and finished second in CUNY.”

Volleyball – as a performer – ceased after Kingsborough. “I was accepted to Hunter College and that’s when my head coach from Kingsborough (Paul Watson) offered me to be his assistant.”

After Covid, Akopyan was named head coach by Athletic Director, Robert Allison. “I couldn’t say no,” she said. “It was always the goal for me because I know I can help take the program back to where it once was. I can help build a new culture which is the same mission AD Robert has here at KCC.”

And wouldn’t you know it. The Alexandra Akopyan story repeated itself with the arrival of Noarie Proverbs.

She graduated St. Andrew’s International School in 2020 – took two gap years – and was living in the Bahamas.

“I was looking at CUNY schools,” she said, “Because they were more affordable.” She played volleyball on the club level – her high school had no team. “I got my real experience on the under National Team in Barbados.”

But like her coach – Proverbs is a KCC sophomore — she had to be pushed to play for the Wave. “It was my mom who encouraged me to play,” she said. “She thought it would be a good way to not only fill my time, but to meet people.”

She lives in the borough with her uncle, and besides the fast-paced game of volleyball, she’s amazed with the pace in Brooklyn. “I enjoy it,” she said, “It’s the fastest country I’ve lived in.”

The pace isn’t the only difference, at least according to coach Akopyan. “Making sure everyone is on the same page is a priority,” the coach said. “The players are a bit different from when I played. I need to make sure everyone is goal oriented.”

Akopyan says volleyball certainly isn’t the number one priority, but admits that’s fine. “School, family, work are some of the distractions I live with; and makes my job more challenging. Sometimes players will miss practices and even some matches.”

Last season the Wave, under first-year coach Akopyan won nine of 22 matches. “We only had four returnees,” she said.

But Alexandra Akopyan never thought she’d play volleyball — let alone coach it – when she arrived from Moscow.

Her sophomore performer from Barbados had the same thoughts.

Little did they know they’d join forces on the court at Kingsborough Community College.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: andyf@brooklyneagle.,com Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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