A spike in participation

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With the 2017 fall season underway, various sports have undergone structural changes. Varsity girls volleyball, varsity girls soccer and varsity field hockey have all made tweaks to their system that will impact the programs for years to come.

The Athletics Department added a third, JJV team to the girls volleyball program to maximize the talent and depth of the program after 33 players attended tryouts in August.

At any tryouts, there are typically up to five players who have never played volleyball previously. This year, however, Varsity Girls Assistant Volleyball Coach Lisi Arrarte found that nobody fit that description.

The program, as in years past, prepared to field a JV team, which would yield approximately 24 players in total. However, with a surplus of nine moderately experienced players, Varsity Girls Volleyball Head Coach Dobi Dobos, JV Girls Volleyball Coach Marissa Haylett and Arrarte talked about the consequences of cutting the additional girls. “It was pretty immediate once we saw the amount of girls and the scope of talent within that group that it was a bad decision – if we could avoid it – cutting players was a bad decision,” Arrarte said.

As that number held true throughout tryouts, the coaches added Director of Athletics John Farmer to the conversation, asking about the viability of adding a JJV team. “This was a group of volleyball-playing, experienced athletes, so it felt like the right thing to do was to try and make space and time for those players to have an opportunity to play,” Farmer said.

This is not a departure for Farmer, who launched a JJV team for boys basketball three years ago and girls soccer two years ago. Both teams did not continue beyond their inaugural season.

Regardless, Farmer is not worried about the future viability of the JJV team. “I make no bones about the fact that I will put things in place because it feels like the right thing to do. I’m not as concerned about the overall, long-term impact because right now, we have 30 plus volleyball players who would benefit our school. ” Farmer said. “There are girls on that JJV team who will be on the varsity team.”

Due to the reshuffled structure of the girls soccer program, the JJV squad has been pulled, whilst numbers on the varsity team have grown. As a result, the JV team has been left with less players, requiring varsity players to play with the  JV squad when necessary.

New Varsity Girls Soccer Head Coach Bruce Brown expanded the spots on the varsity soccer team to 18, meaning three players will be cut ahead of ISSTs. With 18 on the varsity team and a total of 30 trying out, that left only one substitute for the JV team.

Entering the season, Varsity Girls Soccer Captain Lily Noel (’19), who’s played for the varsity team since ISSTs her freshman year, was concerned with the enlarged roster. “We were worried that… it would cause a lot of competition and every practice would be viewed as more tryouts for ISSTs,” Noel said. “Being on the team before, a lot of us recognized that one of the best things about doing ASL sports is that relationship you have with your teammates.”

However, the issue has yet to materialize. “It really hasn’t caused any problems and we’ve really gotten close as a team,” Noel said.

Though competition within the varsity squad hasn’t divided the team, members playing with varsity and JV generates an awkward team dynamic. “Part of me is thinking I have this relationship with this team and I’m a leader for this team, but how can I be a leader when I’m not at the game?” Noel said. “It’s hard adjusting to the idea that I’m going to be moving around and playing on different teams, but we’re going to make it work.”

Despite the need for players to swing from JV and varsity soccer, Assistant to Athletics Directors and former JJV Girls Soccer Coach Pranay Dhanani still believes in the popularity of the soccer program. “We’ve had around 30-35 girls [try-out] each year so the strength of the program is still there. It’s good to see others doing the same thing, increasing their program as well,” Dhanani said.  

Varsity field hockey, a team that has historically struggled with numbers, has experienced a similar uprise in numbers as the varsity girls volleyball team.

Varsity Field Hockey Head Coach Randolph Richardson admits that he doesn’t know what caused the sudden increase in players. “There are girls who are choosing to play this year either because they’ve had experience with the game itself, or with their friends who play the game. They want to be a part of the greater fun that comes from the pride of becoming more skilful,” he said.  

Going into her first year as a high school athlete, Varsity Field Hockey Right Forward Madeline Bataille’s (’21) initial interaction with the sport came as a result of having friends on the team. “My friends encouraged me to do it and made it seem really fun,” she said. “I wanted to try a new sports.”

In spite of the surprising increase in numbers, Richardson believes that the team should remain as one squad rather than splitting into Varsity and JV teams, and will only consider the split if there are “30 plus” players. “[A varsity-JV split] can’t happen this year,” he said. “I was clear with Farmer that if he would have faith in me and my experience, I would do my utmost to make sure that all the girls fulfil their daily, weekly, and season long commitments for the team and the sport.”

Written by Editor-in-Chief: Online Sourna Daneshvar Jr and Sports Editor Jonathan Sheves 

Photo by Online Editor Maddie Sayre