NORTH EASTHAM – The first sign that things were going to be different for this year’s Nauset volleyball program came during tryouts. Sixty-six kids attended, which, according to varsity coach Kaleigh Powell, was more than any other fall program at the school.
It was only a handful of years ago that the Warriors were able to only field a varsity team; now the program has varsity, junior varsity and a freshman team — all with their own individual head coaches.
“That’s the most stark difference,” Nauset senior captain Liv Horton said when asked about how the program has changed during her time at NRHS.
Although Horton, a Yarmouth resident, began her high school career at Dennis-Yarmouth, she has a strong understanding for just how much Nauset’s volleyball program has grown in recent years.
“I was at D-Y my freshman year and we played Nauset and they had nine girls on their varsity team and six or seven on JV, and now we’re the sport with the most athletes out of any of them,” Horton said after the team’s 3-0 loss to Sturgis East on Thursday. “It’s insane — the fact it’s happened in such a short period of time shows the exponential growth and we’re going to keep going.”
As much as interest has grown among Nauset students, the program’s turnaround is still taking time. Horton is only one of four seniors on this fall’s roster, along with Melissa Richards, Michael Terrenzi and Lily Stuehmer, as the Warriors still field a roster of mostly underclassmen.
Despite the fact the team continues to go through some growing pains due to its inexperience, Powell and her players feel as though they have made strides as the season goes on.
“They have definitely improved as the year has gone on,” Powell said, noting that losing six seniors from last year’s team to graduation caused Nauset to start slowly. “It felt weird at the beginning, but everybody committed to their roles and we really set a good foundation for what we need. Even though we lost a few seniors and there were a few holes to fill, everybody has stepped up to the plate.”
In addition to the seniors, Powell and the Warriors have also turned to additional returners to set the tone. Junior Lexi Yelle, an Eastham resident, and sophomore Rebecca Cahill of Brewster both share captain duties with Horton and embrace their roles as leaders.
Yelle said she has been proud of the way the team has approached each game, regardless of what happened in its previous matches.
“We’re in a pretty hard league and it’s pretty competitive, but even against some of those harder teams, like Dennis-Yarmouth and Barnstable, we come hard and play like we’re going to win every game,” Yelle said. “And if we lose, we win as a team and we lose as a team.”
Cahill said some of the losses have proved to be valuable learning tools for the Warriors.
“I think sometimes losing is better than winning because our team can take more from it,” she said. “We learn from our mistakes and that helps us get better.”
Look no further than the team’s recent victory over St. John Paul II as a sign of the improvements being made. After needing five sets to earn a 3-2 victory over JP II in the teams’ first meeting Sept. 9, Nauset posted a dominant 3-0 victory in three sets during the rematch played Oct. 8.
That victory marked the beginning of the team’s “Redemption Run” – the nickname the Warriors dubbed the remainder of their schedule, which includes a series of games against opponents who got the best of Nauset in their first matchup.
Regardless of what happens in the team’s remaining games, Powell said she’s excited for what is to come in the future. The fact new players are joining the team bodes well for the future — as made evident by the addition of Zoey McCarthy, a sophomore newcomer who has impressed the coach this fall.
“It’s her first year playing volleyball and she has been outstanding,” Powell said of McCarthy. “She’s just as good at basketball — it’s amazing how she’s just an amazing natural athlete.”
As the program continues to trend in the right direction, Powell said the only thing on her mind is seeing her team add a few more wins to its 3-11 record.
“We’re just trying to finish the year as strong as possible and get as many wins as we can,” she said.
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BradJoyal