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NSHS volleyball eager to play after second postponement

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced a great deal of change among high school sports, as 2020 spring sports were cancelled altogether and fall sports were postponed until the winter. However, some fall sports, including volleyball, have been postponed yet again until March 1 and those involved with North Shore High School’s volleyball program are disappointed.

“I think kids are frustrated,” said Don Lang, the North Shore School District’s athletic director. “We’ve set up intramural programs, but sometimes I think kids aren’t too enthused about that, especially the seniors because they saw what happened last spring when [sports teams] were never able to come back.”

Lang added that many students feel slighted by the county because high school volleyball teams in New Jersey and Connecticut are still able to compete, as are travel teams.

Tracy Iacovelli has coached the NSHS Varsity Volleyball team for over 20 years and she said the team’s annual success has been heavily due to the drive of its players. The postponement is especially disappointing this year, she said, because it is the last chance for 12 seniors to play the sport they love on a high school level.

Lauran Hagen said she was initially excited to have the season postponed because it enabled her to focus the beginning of her senior year on applying to colleges, a process that is stressful. However, she said much of what she has done in her life has built up to this year’s volleyball season and that she cannot help but feel let down.

“I’ve been playing volleyball since fifth grade,” Hagen said. “It feels like everything’s been leading up to senior year, so I’m also disappointed.”

Iacovelli said the pandemic has been equally difficult for younger students, albeit in different ways. This is especially pertinent to sophomore Natalie Gaeta, who said she believes that sophomore year is a critical time for high school athletes because some have the chance to be called up to the varsity team as an underclassman, something which is less likely to happen this year.

“I’ve always had the idea in the back of my mind that if I worked really hard and I tried [my best],” Natalie said, “maybe I could be pulled up.”

However, Natalie said not being able to socialize with her teammates is just as difficult as not playing because volleyball is the only thing that can bring them together right now due to North Shore High School’s hybrid learning model. Students are currently spending two days a week in class and the other three learning remotely. Even when they are in class, they are only around half of their classmates, as each grade has been split into two cohorts to keep the amount of people in the building at one time as low as possible.

Natalie’s sister, Katie, who is a senior on the varsity team, added that being able to play with Natalie also serves as a great way for her to stay at the top of her game and for another reason. “Being able to practice while she’s there too is good bonding for us,” Katie said, “and it keeps me competitive and willing to work hard and be the best that I can be.”

Despite the difficulties the postponement has had on the team, players have remained dedicated to the sport. While intramural sports were running during the fall semester, they consistently showed up to each session to work on their game. In the meantime, the athletes have been regularly doing cardio and strength workouts so they will be able to take on the competition when the season begins in March.