Group Aims To Bring Volleyball To SHS By Next Fall

 For two years, there has been serious talk about creating a girls’ volleyball team at Sandwich High School. This week, organizers of that effort say they are getting closer to reaching their goal.

With a little bit of luck, the school could have either a club team or a junior varsity team ready to compete against area schools as early as next fall, with the goal of fielding a varsity team soon after that.

J. Scott Turley of Dowager Drive and Erik T. Hokanson of Torrey Drive have been discussing a proposal for a team with Sandwich High athletic director Martin S. Cosgrove and school committee members Robert P. Catalini and Jessica A. Linehan.

Sandwich would actually be somewhat of a latecomer to the sport of girls’ volleyball, with several towns on the Cape fielding some of the best teams in the state. Last weekend, Barnstable High School capped off an undefeated 23-0 season by winning the MIAA Division 1 girls’ volleyball state championship. It was their 14th state championship and second consecutive title. Bourne placed third in the South Coast Conference this season, and made it to the quarter-finals of the MIAA South Division 2 championship before losing to Fairhaven.

A volleyball enthusiast, Mr. Turley played the sport at the University of Maine and on a variety of different club teams. He has also coached, launching the girls’ volleyball programs at Silver Lake High School in 1996 and Pembroke High School in 2004. For the past two years, he has coached girls’ volleyball at Saint Francis Xavier Preparatory School in Hyannis.

He feels the time is overdue for Sandwich High School to offer girl athletes their own volleyball program.

“It is inexplicable,” Mr. Turley said, “that there are successful programs in towns bordering Sandwich, but not in Sandwich.” Fall sports currently available to girls at Sandwich High School include soccer, field hockey, cross-country, swimming and diving, and cheerleading.

Asked what the protocol was for launching a new athletic team, Mr. Cosgrove said there was none.

His advice to organizers was to first compile hard data for the Sandwich School Committee showing there is sufficient interest in a girls’ volleyball team. According to Mr. Cosgrove, it would then be up to the school committee to determine if the funding exists for a team.

To that end, a survey has been posted online at www.sandwichvolleyball.com for interested students to fill out. The survey will also soon be posted on the Sandwich High School website.

Mr. Catalini said if the data does show interest, it is incumbent upon the school to support the wishes of the students.

“Being a former athletic director,” Mr. Catalini said, “I believe in engaging as many kids as possible in as many areas as possible, whether it’s sports, the arts, music, dance. If the commitment is there, we have to support it.”

“The more the school can offer students, the better,” Mr. Cosgrove said, “but I don’t want to get into the same situation I ran into with gymnastics.”

Mr. Cosgrove explained that the school had a gymnastics team, but it disbanded after only one year due to lack of interest.

“The only ones interested,” he said, “were the seniors that year.”

The team was also self-funded, which meant that families of the athletes had to raise money for expenses, such as the cost of uniforms, paying for referees and transportation, and the coach’s salary.

“It’s tough because everyone is fundraising,” he said.

According to Mr. Turley, starting off as a club team would be a way to address both issues of proving interest in such a team, and team expenses. Mr. Turley has offered to volunteer as coach and/or referee. He said the players could make their own uniforms from T-shirts and they could provide one another with rides to games. Since club teams are not recognized by the MIAA and are not eligible to play for any league championship, the girls would be playing purely out of love for the sport, which would certainly show interest.

Both Mr. Turley and Mr. Cosgrove see establishing a volleyball team as an excellent way of dealing with a problem Sandwich High School is grappling with—the loss of students to high schools in other towns, as well as charter and private schools.

With the school committee debating the merits of a marketing plan designed to sell the public on the idea of attending Sandwich High, Mr. Turley believes a step in the right direction would be the creation of a new team.

“One thing that would create a lot of buzz would be a new sport,” he said. “It’s not going to be the single thing that will keep kids at Sandwich High, but it will be a great way to increase popularity.”

Mr. Turley’s daughter Althea is in the 8th grade at Saint Francis in Hyannis, where she plays volleyball. She also plays in a juniors program on a team coached by the head coach of the state champion Barnstable High Red Raiders.

She is trying to decide which high school she will attend next year, and her parents would like her to go to Sandwich High, so a volleyball team would help make her decision a little easier.

Mr. Hokanson’s daughter Carley played on the same team at Saint Francis as Mr. Turley’s daughter. Mr. Hokanson said his daughter, a freshman at Sandwich High School, wants very much to play volleyball in school.

Like Mr. Turley, Mr. Hokanson is also convinced that a girls’ volleyball team would be “a great way to keep kids here in Sandwich.”

For Mr. Cosgrove, investing in a volleyball program is also cost-effective. The lack of a girls’ volleyball team might provide the impetus for students who are considering attending a different school that does offer a team. The loss of even one student, he said, can cost the town thousands of dollars.

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