Since her freshman year, Momo Steele (’16) has been clawing to return varsity girls volleyball to Division I ISSTs. Finishing third her freshman year, second her sophomore year and, triumphantly, first last season in Division II, Steele eagerly anticipates what will be her last ISST. Adding to the excitement is the fact that ASL will host the tournament from November 12-14.
Unsure of exactly how the home crowd will be, Steele believes that any cheering and encouragement from the home court advantage will be exactly that: An advantage. Home support, she hopes, will play a key role throughout the tournament in boosting the team’s confidence.
Specific game times are convenient and conducive for classmates to watch and cheer the team, which Steele appreciates. On November 12, two of the team’s four games are played at 12:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.. On November 13, the team plays again at 12:45 p.m. and at 3:15 p.m..
Assistant Coach Lisi Arrarte expects the proximity of the Farmer Family Gym compared to Canons Park, where the varsity boys soccer team played last year’s ISSTs, will encourage more students to attend games.
Playing her first tournament at the school carries a lot of nerves for Monet Streit (’19). Seeing volleyball as an extremely mental game, Streit feels a home crowd will lead to positive results on the court. “It helps a lot with confidence when everyone is cheering you on and it pushes you to do better,” she said.
Beyond the support, there are other advantages to the tournament being held at ASL. Knowing the surroundings and the court and sleeping in their own homes also benefits the team. “You’re not experiencing anything new, it’s your environment, so you’re comfortable,” Steele said. “It allows you more time to focus on the game.”
But, hosting the tournament adds responsibility for the team. “It’s good to have everyone cheering and things, but you don’t want it to distract you too much. You want to make sure you’re focusing on volleyball,” Streit said.
Proximity to friends will prove most difficult for the team, Steele believes. “When you go away your sole focus is ISSTs and each game, but when you’re home you don’t get that kind of isolation because all of your friends are around the corner,” she said.
As a coach, Arrarte finds that dynamic most concerning. “At home it takes a different kind of discipline to really focus on the tournament and let the social and academic pressures subside completely,” Arrarte said.
To diminish distractions, the team has agreed to spend days together in the gym. Though there are no strict rules, staying as a team prevents the players from socializing in the theatre foyer with friends or seeing teachers.
For each member of the team, Arrarte said, succeeding in the Division I, in front of familiar faces, may be the greatest gift of hosting tournament. “If you do well in your home court it just makes it that much sweeter,” she said.