Volleyball seniors are set for a goodbye

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world on pause and led to the cancellation of numerous events and activities. On March 12, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that PSAL activities were to be suspended indefinitely, and on March 15, it was announced schools would also be suspended. With the decision to not reopen schools for the 2019-20 school year, PSAL spring sports are effectively over. These also represent the last seasons for graduating seniors, who are not able to participate in their final year.

It was over before it even began. Unfortunately, our Boys Volleyball season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We all believed that this season would be an outstanding year for us, with such a great amount of our team’s lineup consisting of experienced, skilled seniors. This news was heartbreaking to the entire team, and it was especially disappointing that we did not even get the opportunity to play our first official game. However, these unfortunate circumstances do not undermine my connection and appreciation to the seniors on the team.

There are eight seniors on our boys volleyball team: Joshua Bae, Ivan Chan, Han Xin Gao, Joe Guartan, Dinesh Mulani, Daniel Shi, Calvin Tan, and Westar Zong. All of them have been on the team for a different number of years, but I’ve witnessed each of them firsthand pouring tremendous amounts of work and dedication into this year’s season. We all shared the same common goal: dominate the court. 

I joined the volleyball team in my sophomore year, and it definitely proved to be a difficult transition in the beginning. As someone who had never played on an organized sports team before, I felt that I was rashly diving headfirst into possibly the most commitment-requiring extracurricular activity I could have possibly signed up for. The idea of spending six days of the week practicing or competing terrified me. At first, I was afraid of sacrificing all my free time to play on the team. It was such a big change for me from the extracurriculars I had previously participated in that held practices and meetings once or twice a week. Thankfully, the current seniors on our team made this transition so much easier for me. They were all incredibly lighthearted and did not make me feel like “the new guy” in any way. Aaron Luu, who was the only freshman on the team last year, shares this opinion: “The seniors made being the only freshman on the team so much less stressful because they were all welcoming and nice.” It wasn’t until I spent some time with my teammates that I realized this wasn’t me sacrificing my time. This was how I wanted to spend my time. I genuinely loved being around the team, our coaches, and our managers, a group of people who shared my passion for such an incredible sport. 

The lessons we learned from each of the seniors is something my underclassmen teammates and I will cherish forever. Dino and Joe were always so welcoming to me and the other rookies when we joined the team, and they taught me to be more open-minded to meeting new people. They are both modest about their skills and taught me how to stay humble. Josh, Han, and Ivan taught me how to be very lighthearted when playing and enjoy the game rather than stressing, which is often how you end up performing the best. Their radiating energy when they were dancing in the middle of our huddles will always be my favorite memories we have of our team. 

Calvin taught me the importance of being a good leader who’s not afraid to admit his own shortcomings. His dedication to our team and his skills on the court have made me more confident in my own abilities, abilities that would be extremely lacking without his guidance. Daniel and Westar, who both joined the team when they were juniors (the same year as when I made the team) made me feel comfortable and less intimidated by the idea of training with upperclassmen. I loved going through the process of tryouts alongside them and how immediately friendly they were with me. In fact, Daniel Shi said, “Volleyball was super fun! I loved that I felt included right away even though I joined in my junior year.”

Most of all, I am inspired by how optimistic the seniors remain after the devastating cancellation of our spring season. The most important thing I learned from our seniors by far is the importance of learning from past experiences and looking toward the future. One of our captains, Calvin Tan, meditated about the cancellation of our season: “It sucks knowing the improvement the team has made year after year won’t be carried out in our peak and final run. However, it doesn’t take away from experiences and values I was able to gain off the court through the past years. Being coached by [Ms.] Caiaccia and playing at Townsend will always be an honor and something that I will cherish for years to come.”

These boys made me enjoy going to practice everyday and even getting cramps afterwards. The literal blood, sweat, and tears that each of us dedicated to this team is something I will always cherish, even though our season was cut short. The lessons each of them taught me and the friendships I formed are something I will always appreciate and something that will last me a lifetime. That is something that the COVID-19 pandemic can never take away from us. 

Photo courtesy of Coach Caiaccia.