Northwestern team ready for first season
Northwestern girls volleyball players had always hoped to play for a high school team. Some of them had been playing for the Northwestern Volleyball Club since middle school, competing against other high school teams during the spring club season.
For years they had been trying to get a high school team started that would compete against others in the fall, but as last year's school year was coming to a close, they still had not received approval.
Finally, in early June the players got word that the school district would field varsity and junior varsity teams in the fall of 2012, just in time for some players who thought it was too late.
"I thought we were going to get it after my senior year," said Abby Sanders, a Northwestern senior who has been part of the club team since fifth grade. "I was happy that we were going to get it, but not to be able to be on the team would have been disappointing."
When she found out it was not too late, that she and her teammates would play a full season during her senior year, Sanders was overjoyed.
"Me and bunch of the other girls were jumping up and down and just happy to have a team," she said. "It's going to feel like a dream come true to finally say I play for a high school."
The Lady Tigers don't expect to be a typical first-year athletic program. Becasue of the club, they have a team with experience playing against other high school players. The team has held it's own against some of the area's top programs.
"Some of the kids are new so it's their first exposure to volleyball," said head coach Dave Hufnagle, who's been coaching some of these players for seven years. "The kids that have been through the program through NYAA or the Northwestern Volleyball Club, have been playing pretty much year round. They're ready."
Does that mean he expects his team to go toe to toe with other established high school teams?
"Absolutely," Hufnagle said. "I'll be disappointed if we're not. The first match we play is against Stroudsburg. We played them in the finals of a tournament this spring. We lost to them, but it was really close."
One thing this team has that others might not, is a tremendous amount of time invested in the program. Most of the players attended school board meetings and worked with athletic director Jason Zimmerman to help get the program approved and in place for this year.
"A lot of girls went to meetings and talked to the school board," said senior Jordan Veppert. "And we've been doing the club for a long time and helping get more girls involved with the club."
Their original plan was to get in tournaments this year and build a larger schedule over the next few years. But Zimmerman remarkably put together a schedule with 14 matches and four tournaments.
"I was amazed when (Zimmerman) told me how many games we had," said Hufnagle.
Practice got underway last week and the team is anxious and excited to begin its first season as an official high school program.
"It's going to be exciting," said Veppert. "I'm pretty stoked. A lot of the girls are asking if we're going to have buses and everything. We're not quite sure this is real or not because this is so exciting to be a part of it."