The Rise Of Volleyball

Cameron Henderson, Olivia Primack and Hunter Gracia

Behind every new beginning is a step-by-step process, and the first step is always the most important. Five years ago coach Kerri O’Connor saw her opportunity to take those first few steps and introduce a volleyball program to the Ipswich Schools. What started out as a club team for beginners quickly transformed into a capable and skilled varsity team in just a short five years, and with the help of her side kick, Lole, it was a tremendous success.

The legacy started when the club team was formed in 2011. Coach Kerri thought a club team would be the best way to get a headstart to the program. Students became beyond interested in the sport and signed up, the only previous knowledge they had being from intramural volleyball. Three days a week for two hours after school, the prospective players gathered at the Ipswich Family YMCA to practice and improve, and eventually they fell in love with the sport. After only a short year, Kerri was given approval to hold her practices in the lower gym at the high school, a second step in the transformation from club team to varsity. The convenience of practice and it being available to children with no rides brought in many more interested players, and the program soared as a result. The basics they had learned from intramural volleyball were slowly developing, as was the team. Underarm serves went from the middle of the court to behind the end line, and underhand serves turned into an overhead crush with great power. In the blink of an eye, they had enough players to divide the middle schoolers from the high schoolers.

After two years of the club team being held at the school, Kerri believed they were ready for their next challenge, a junior-varsity level team. With the help of the athletic director, Tom Gallagher, her dream came true. Tom Gallagher stated, “It was clear to me early on that this program had a lot of interest. I thought before we would have had someone who would want to start a volleyball team but that never happened. My job was to make sure they had what they needed to get them started.”

They made two junior-varsity teams, team A and team B. After a good amount of games of swapping each team in, Kerri allowed her A team to battle against more intermediate varsity level teams to see where their skills were at.  As if it all happened so fast, the girls played each game with their hearts put into it and proved to Kerri and Lole they were ready to go varsity level.

The start of year fifth was more intense, and the reality of the sport finally hit. To the team, it felt like just yesterday they were goofing around at the club practices, and now they were on the court trying out for the first ever varsity level volleyball team at Ipswich High School. With a total of thirty-six girls trying out, only twelve would claim a spot on varsity and twelve to thirteen on junior-varsity. After a total of three intense days in a hot gym, twelve girls were sent home. This was the first year the girls had to fight for what they wanted, and prove to the coaches how much hard work they’ve done. With a 9-9 record and being qualified to playoffs, all the teams were in shock. The girls went into every game with their all, knowing the other team was confident on beating these “underdogs.” They played a difficult 6-2 set up, which more advanced teams used. The games they lost weren’t by much, and they held their heads high. Junior captain Meghan O’Connor says, “We will do better next year because we have more experience and know how the higher level teams play.”

The impression the IHS volleyball program gave was impressive. It showed hardwork and dedication from each player and the coaches. With the help of Tom Gallagher, parents, and Bentley college, the team got up on their feet quickly and moved fast. The 2016 IHS volleyball team became a legacy and the start of something great.