Following a fantastic runner-up finish in the 2019 NEPSAC Class B playoffs, the Kingswood Oxford varsity volleyball team was unfortunately unable to build upon its success in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with a slightly new look this season, the girls are amped to assert themselves back into the postseason picture and improve their on-court chemistry at every game.
“It feels so good to be back in Hewett [Gym], having practice and playing real teams,” senior Co-captain Mackenzie Caruso said. “Although we still need to keep our masks on, we are all so grateful to be having a season that we really don’t mind. Coach [Scott McDonald] keeps practices fun and engaging by mixing in workouts, drills, and scrimmages.”
Volleyball is the only indoor fall sport, and the girls, by state law, are required to keep their masks on when playing. However, their practices and game schedules are fully back to normal, as the players are able to stand in close proximity to each other while still upholding all health and safety requirements.
With just three seniors, varsity volleyball is a relatively young team, but there are a number of key contributors who have proven themselves to be vital to the team’s success. Junior Co-captain Keira Sullivan has been dominant up front, displaying her power and precision while also being the team’s vocal leader both on and off the court.
“It was really great to see all of the talent and potential at preseason and watch it develop over the past month,” Sullivan said. “As we get more comfortable with one another, we’re learning how to communicate and better [our skills].”
In the first matchup of the season, the red and black faced King School on Saturday, Sept. 11 with fans at Hewett Gym, falling in three sets (25-15, 25-17, 25-23). The Vikings were very experienced and came out firing, but the girls still made the match very competitive. KO really dug deep in the third set to try to extend the match. Sophomore Ava Cashman flashed some great serving while senior Naomi Wong, junior Jill Plaut, Caruso, and Sullivan played exceptionally well in their respective roles.
The Wyverns had another challenging clash against Hopkins School on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at home and were defeated in three sets (25-19, 25-18, 25-9). Despite this loss, the girls did a fantastic job combating the Hilltoppers’ punishing offensive attack and went on multiple long-service runs to keep the score close.
Despite dropping the first two games of the season, the girls took plenty of positives away from the team’s collective performance. “Playing against King and Hopkins has been a really valuable experience for our team in the sense that we’ve had to learn to play together against teams with really talented players,” Sullivan said. “Being so challenged in our first games has made us that much more prepared for the rest of the season.”
On Saturday, Sept. 25, the girls traveled to Massachusetts in a game against Wilbraham and Monson Academy, earning a convincing three-set victory over the Titans. Every player had an effect on the game in some capacity, giving the Wyverns confidence that their skills are definitely there and that moving forward in the season, their success will simply be a matter of consistency.
“I really feel that this team has the determination and potential to be successful in the postseason,” Caruso said. “I know it’s a big goal, but I believe in this program.”
Aspirations of taking down the best competition in Class B aren’t far-fetched, and varsity volleyball is all-in to outwork, outthink and display more heart than any other team that is put in front of them.