Volleyball Team Serves Up Success

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Volleyball Team Serves Up Success

Credit: Williston Flickr

Credit: Williston Flickr

Credit: Williston Flickr

Credit: Williston Flickr

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The gym was packed on October 26. It was hot, but the stands were lined with people. The volleyball team was down in a game against Suffield, but were slowly coming back, and the energy was electric.

I’d never been to a volleyball game before. I didn’t know any of the rules, or even the structure of the sport, but within minutes I was on the edge of my seat. The girls were captivating; communicating in every second, chanting after every play. Although Williston ended up losing the game on Friday night, it was easy to see how they’ve been so successful this season.

Williston’s volleyball program is relatively new; started in 2003 and coached by history teacher Alex Rivenburgh and science teacher Ken Choo, neither of whom have much experience in the sport.

Rivenburgh told The Willistonian that their team’s chemistry was key.

“They are relying on each other for practice and games but are also looking out for each other off the court,” he said.

“They started as a bunch of girls who knew each other, then they became a team, and now they are adding more girls to their family.”

He added, “These girls have developed a great bond and are a unified group that are all pulling in the same direction and understand that they need each other in all phases of the game.”

Choo agreed, although he noted the difficulties of team bonding.

“There are so many obstacles to this—playing time, wins and losses, injuries, differing personalities and maturities, the pressure cooker that is the life of students here. But despite this, the team comes together. It’s a beautiful thing,” he remarked.

Senior Captain Gates MacPherson loves the energy of her team.

“My favorite part about being on the team is the atmosphere at practice. It’s fun, competitive, and friendly,” she said. “We know how to work hard but we have a really fun time doing it.”

Gates also noted, “I hope the players come out of this season as a family. This year we’ve really connected to be more than just a team, and I hope that when the season’s over, that aspect of ‘family’ will still be between us.”

The concept of family kept coming up the more volleyball players I talked to. In fact, they even cheer “family” before a big game or a big set.

“I have played on the varsity volleyball team since eighth grade and the biggest change that I believe has affected our record is our team chemistry,” she said. “Volleyball is a sport where you can’t hide; it is a sport dependent on teamwork and communication and this year I believe that because we know and trust one another, we are able to convey that on the court where in past years it wasn’t possible.”

Julia Cavanaugh ’19 has been playing on the team for four years and thinks the camaraderie of the team is a major part of her Williston experience.

“We’ve persevered and grown over the years to become the team we are today. My love of volleyball has brought me back each year and the sheer determination to prove everyone’s assumptions [about] the volleyball program wrong has only made us stronger.”

Although Rivenburgh did not have much experience when he was asked to coach the team, he loves it because of the things he learns from the girls like Julia, Gates, and Dylan.

“I get to continually learn about the game,” he said. “Not having played means I need to do research and learn the intricacies of the game in order to help put my girls in a spot to be successful.”

He added, “It is never a dull day and each practice is different and exciting for me.”

As senior Gates prepares to graduate in the spring, she hopes the team continues to do what they do best: communicate and connect.

“Volleyball is a lot about working together, and especially communication—and I think us having such a strong bond has been such a pivotal aspect for our team that has really been helping us be successful.”

Dylan agreed, “This year especially it has been remarkable to see how much the team has bonded and how much that strong team dynamic positively impacts our play on the court,” she said. “I always look forward to practice because I will get to play a sport I love with people I love.”

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