Sophomores embracing varsity experience
By LAUREN JETTE
Earning a spot on a varsity team can take years of putting in lots of hard work and sweat on the sub-varsity levels. Finally getting that opportunity to perform at the highest level in high school athletics can be daunting as the intensity and pace of play is much higher and faster than ever before.
This season, three sophomores will get to experience that intensity of varsity after only a year on the freshman volleyball team.
Brooklynn Jones, Bethany McLeod and Savannah Stanley look to contribute to the varsity squad as the only underclassmen on the team.
Four weeks into the season, the trio has several varsity matches under their belt, but agreed that their first match was quite an experience.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Stanley said. “It was scary, if we’re being honest.”
“(Marble Falls) was the first game where they called us out (for mistakes),” Jones said. “I was pretty pumped, it was exciting.”
One of the first things the sophomores had to get used to was the pace of play.
“It’s so much slower on the freshman team,” McLeod said.
“It’s really fast-paced,” Jones added. “I like it so much more, because you don’t have time to think about your mistakes, you just have to go.”
One of the factors that contributed to the success of last year’s state semifinalist team was the bond the team formed throughout the season. Stanley said while their first day in the varsity locker room was “a little awkward at first”, the adjustment to a new team was quick.
“They were very welcoming,” Jones said of the upperclassmen. “They weren’t the kind of seniors who shun you.”
“I don’t think of them as older than me, actually,” Stanley added. “I just think of them as friends now.”
Stanley and Jones describe McLeod as “chill and quiet” but “kind of a smart aleck too, it’s funny.”
McLeod and Jones describe Stanley as “really silly and funny.”
Jones was described as “a good dancer. She can be very sassy sometimes and good with comebacks.”
One of the best parts of playing volleyball is being a member of a team, the trio agreed.
“Being a part of a team is one of the best feelings in the world, because you know you depend on teammates,” Stanley said. “You don’t just lose by yourself, you lose all together.”
“Teammates help you feel better about yourself when you’re down,” McLeod said.
“You work together,” Jones said. “It’s not an independent sport. You get excited with your teammates. When you’re down, you pump up your teammates to get them going.”
While adding three sophomores to a varsity roster may seem like an ideal situation, it’s not a bad problem, said head coach Gretchen Peterson.
“It’s a good problem to have in terms of that we have talent in our younger grades that can contribute at a young age on varsity,” she said.
“It also means they are going to experience growing pains. The speed of play from freshman to varsity and not having that year of junior varsity is a big jump, so there’s some patience that has to go into play, but (we) still want to expect a lot from them.”
Although it’s still early in the season, Peterson has been pleased with they way the three sophomores have handled their responsibilities so far.
“I think they’ve responded really well,” she said.
“They are competitors and want to be out there and they’re hard on themselves and they expect a lot from themselves, so it’s a good problem to have. We just have to get them touches. We’re a young team, regardless, so they’re really in the same boat as everybody else.”
Some might wonder how much the underclassmen can really contribute to the team, but Peterson isn’t concerned.
“Brooklynn’s done well, she’s really been our only setter this whole season thus far,” Peterson said. “She makes her mistakes and she’s going to make more, but I think she’s learning the game and finding ways to connect with her hitters.
“Savannah, she’s on the court all the time (as libero) and handles it great, and Bethany does a great job for us as well. They have roles that they need to fulfill and they are making the mistakes we’re expecting them to make, but they’re finding ways to work through it and I think they’ll be fine,” she said.