By Courtney Brown and Megan Jenkins
Last year’s seniors walked out of the doors of Holliston High School without hesitation. And while teachers have allowed some students to slowly fade into a memory, coaches might see this as a painful goodbye. All sports teams will be impacted in some way by the loss of seniors, but the volleyball team has been forced to wrap their heads around the constant reminder that some of their key players will never be returning.
The new season starting in the fall is being referred to as a “building year” because of the loss of six key players: Jackie Sostilio, Jordan Sostilio, Emma Twomey, Jill Barry, Kristen Repella, and Melissa Emmons. Although the seniors will be missed, the volleyball team must play on.
“Now that some of our key players are gone, I think that the varsity team will need to be rebuilt with strong players. With so many spots now open on the varsity team, it gives the sophomores and juniors a great opportunity to play on a varsity level and learn from Coach Gerard,” said sophomore Erica Linnell, who was an outside hitter last year.
Brian Gerard, coach of the varsity girls’ volleyball team, seemed to agree with her.
“Every position is up for grabs. This opens up a possibility for others to step up and shine in their own right. Also, the off season preparation of the athletes will truly have an impact on our program more than the loss of any player…I hope with so many spots to fill, it breeds a high level of competition between teammates,” said Gerard in an email interview.
While many spots will be open to deserving players, the training for games during the 2012 volleyball season is sure to be something that whips players into shape.
“I think this season will be more difficult and different because we lost most of our better players…we have to rebuild what we lost this year, since we lost almost our whole starting lineup,” said senior Sarah Patry, who served as a middle hitter.
Gerard is all for slamming the players with the pressure to improve in this upcoming season. “We graduated some really good talent. Both outside hitters, both middle hitters, a setter, and a defensive specialist. Two of the players [were] recipients of the 2012 ‘Best Athlete’ award. So we need to rebuild to their level of excellence and I hope all 2012 players are up for the task.”
Pressure and high expectations will always be raining down on returning players in any sport, but for the upcoming fall season of HHS volleyball, a storm of pressure seems to be building up.
“I am expecting to see great attitudes from the first day of tryouts to the last game of the season. I expect to see the utmost in sportsmanship from each player, and that players have bettered their skills by August in order to compete at a high level Tri-Valley League… I expect to see every player play every point of every game as aggressively as possible,” said Gerard.
The returning players of the volleyball team seemed to know what was in store for them in the fall, and were not surprised at all with the idea of how hard they had to work during tryouts. After three days of four-hour sessions, Gerard had his cuts made and teams decided, giving the 9 varsity spots to Anna Cristofori, Emily White, Megan Jenkins, Carrie Gillespie, Amanda Thomas, Erin Clancy, Emma Mulvaney, Kathryn Hunter, and Heather Leger. With a new team comes new expectations, new attitudes, as well as new goals for the season.
“My real goal for the season is to build. We lost a lot of players last year, and coming into this as the only returner to varsity, I knew it was going to be a year to build up another team,” said Anna Cristofori, captain and only senior, in a post-practice interview.
Not only is the team new, but some of the teammates are also new to each other. As a result this year is not only focused on building the team itself, but trust and confidence amongst the players. Carrie Gillespie, team setter and junior, said “there is a greater sense of family on the team,” compared to last year’s team.
As the focus goes from the team as a whole to the individual members of varsity, each player’s motivation is on improving themselves, not only for the current season, but in preparation for future seasons. “My goal is to make the best players we can make out of them,” explained Cristofori.
According to Emily White, co-captain and junior, the team’s goal can be described in one word, “Progress: doing better and better with each day.” As the team continues into the season, with only one win under their belt and eight losses, they can only improve. The team has had “Not a lot of wins, but we are working on that, definitely a lot of improvement, especially since tryouts. Lots of teamwork,” said White.
Though the wins may be few and far between, the team is certainly still in good spirits. “We’ve shown that the record cannot dictate the growth of a team, nor can you let it get you down,” said Gillespie when asked about the season so far. After all, it’s not all about the scoreboard. As Gillespie said “everyone on the team is here because they just love to play. Winning is extra.”
With a little over a month left in the season, and many more games to be played, the Holliston varsity volleyball team is not even close to taking down the net.