H.S. Volleyball: South Hadley volleyball team rolling with the punches in unusual season

  • South Hadley volleyball coach Corey Koske, shown here in a previous season, and the Tigers are making the best of a season where they’re playing 12 matches against just two different opponents. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Intern
Published: 4/5/2021 7:24:36 PM

There aren’t many local schools competing in the sport of volleyball during the Fall II season, but South Hadley High School is grasping its limited chance to play matches after missing out on the opportunity to play last fall.

Considering that many volleyball teams across Western Mass. are not following in South Hadley’s footsteps, competition has been sparse. For the entirety of their season, the Tigers are only able to play six matches apiece against Southwick and Sabis. All of their scheduled matches will be on the road with the exception of their last contest, scheduled to be Senior Night on April 22. With JV and varsity combined, the program has about 25 players this season.

Senior captain Katelyn Walas, an outsider hitter for the varsity team, said there has been some challenges that this limited competition has posed for both her and her teammates.

“I don’t like having to drive a long way every game because we don’t have any home games minus our senior night,” Walas said. “I also feel like this is a disadvantage for the underclassmen being able to only play two teams, considering you get better by playing all types of teams who have different strengths and weaknesses. It helps make a team better all around.”

Another challenge for the Tigers is their gym space. South Hadley High School is using its gymnasium as another cafeteria and for an overflow for classrooms, forcing both the JV and varsity teams to utilize only half of their middle school’s gym in incremented time slots. In comparison to the high school, the middle school gym is not only considerably smaller, but their practice time has been almost cut in half.

“It makes it very hard to work on swinging and serving,” Walas explained, “because we never know whether it would actually be out since the gym is so small.”

South Hadley head coach Corey Koske, who has been with the varsity team for 12 years, said that the program’s attempt to squeeze in ample practice time in preparation for the abbreviated season was just as challenging.

“Typically, during our normal practice season my varsity team alone has about two and a half hours of practice per session,” Koske offered. “Now we’re cut down to about an hour and a half, for only four days a week. It’s greatly diminished.”

Despite the limited space COVID protocols have presented, however, Walas said the Tigers are still more than grateful to get some time on the court, no matter how short.

“Our team is quite unique based on how we act in school compared to practice,” Walas said. “The environment we’ve created over the years makes practice like a safe space. Everyone goes crazy, but still focused on playing. It makes everyone want to go to practice to have fun, but also get better. It also helps to have a coach like ours who makes us feel like he’s one of us.”

Koske echoed Walas’ positive spirits for the season going forward.

“Once we get on the court, it feels like business as usual,” he said. “We’re taking all the precautions possible to maintain the season.”

The Tigers entered this week’s slate of matches 2-3 overall.

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