By Dana Michlin
South students have proven that they know how to come together for a cause. They demonstrated school spirit when the junior and senior class mobilized to attempt to bring back Powderpuff. They showed their care for each other after each of Newton’s tragedies this past year. And this time around, they have shown that they know how to celebrate together, too.
As the boys won game after game leading towards the highlight of the season, the state championship finals against Agawam, more and more people showed to cheer the team on. The sport, which is not particularly popular on the eastern seaboard, has finally garnered the school support and spirit that South is often lacking.
As a school, we pride ourselves on our academics, our culture of achievement, and our involvement in a large variety of extracurriculars. But as a school, we lack a culture that supports athletics to the extent that other communities do. These past couple of weeks, however, South students and faculty have done an impressive job showing just how caring we can be by showing up, cheering on, and supporting our boys’ volleyball team as they advance to their most incredible achievement yet–the finals of the state championship.
According to junior captain Brendan Duggan, the team this year is extremely successful due to its incredible “team chemistry.” Coach Todd Elwell supports this statement, saying that every player on the team brings a sense of “we over me” to the team, as well as having six or seven players that balance the strength on the court rather than having one player dominate throughout the entire season.
Elwell estimates around 50 people coming to regular season games, but 200 or 300 people at the high stakes games, such as the Needham sectional final game.
And for South students, these are impressive numbers. Like Elwell explains, South students are overbooked; they have band concerts, speech and debate, work, or sports. And when they aren’t busy with one of these, they have plenty of tests to study for. But this time, despite the looming academic finals, South rallied behind their team, time and time again, showing just how strong the student body is.
According to Elwell, the team feeds off of the energy of the fans. Even when the opponent’s fans are in higher attendance, Elwell says that this year’s team knows how to channel the energy into the game. But when South fans show up, the team’s spirits rise, they feel validated and proud to be a part of South, and they play even better with their friends and classmates watching.
Unfortunately, there are still a large number of students oblivious to the events of the athletics department. Freshman Sophie Franco said that she had not been aware of the boys’ volleyball team’s achievement. “I would probably want to go to some games next year,” she said. And while it is a general trend that freshmen and sophomores stay away from sporting events, South has been doing a better job of bringing them news about upcoming games.
South students are not the only ones supporting the team. According to Elwell, the alumni, parents of alumni, and teachers also comprise a large number of the spectators. He claims that those kids who show respect and leadership off the court bring fans to the games, since their classmates and teachers want to show them the same respect they are shown. Elwell claims he starts the season urging his players to not only to be the best they can be on the court, but also to maintain that sense of integrity and respect off the court.
Duggan says that the team made a massive effort to bring people to the games, hanging fliers, tweeting, and utilizing social media (especially Facebook events) to spread the word about upcoming games. Clearly, the effort worked: after the semifinal game, even though I was unable to attend the game and am generally athletically ignorant, I walked into class and knew who won and how amazing this achievement was. And unlike most mornings, where my classmates would all drift back to that semi-conscious state that we are in at 7:40 in the morning, as players from the volleyball entered the class, kids around me woke up and started congratulating and high-fiving the boys with mohawks. Never, in my three years of high school, have I seen this much support, or even knowledge, about a specific team’s success.
So I urge the freshmen, the sophomores, the juniors, and even the now-graduated seniors to come to the final game to show support for an extremely talented and hard-working group of South students. They have worked for this and they have brought our school to the spotlight. Tomorrow, whether we win or lose is not the point, but rather whether we can show pride in our school and in our classmates.