The tennis courts have been action-packed at Sacred Heart Greenwich this fall, but tennis isn’t being played.
Volleyball has become an outdoor sport at Sacred Heart, due to COVID-19 safety guidelines and the tennis courts have served as the Tigers’ varsity team’s home court for the fall.
“It’s definitely different and a little bit challenging, since you have to adjust to a different environment,” said Morgan Wilkens, a senior co-captain. “We are adjusting to the wind, the weather and a different type of court, where it’s a little bit harder to move. Though it’s been a different experience, I think it’s helpful doing this together as a team, because we are all going through the same thing and we’re all in this together.”
While Sacred Heart’s varsity team uses the tennis courts for practices and matches, it’s junior varsity and middle school squads have been mostly training on makeshift volleyball courts outside on the grass.
“This is a community building experience for us,” Wilkens said.
Wilkens and fellow senior co-captain Olivia Lockwood have become adept at helping lead the Sacred Heart community. The duo heads the school’s student body, with Wilkens serving as Sacred Heart’s student body president and Lockwood performing the role of vice president.
Being student body president and vice president during a global pandemic is a significant undertaking, but Wilkens and Lockwood are up to the task.
“We love to work together,” Lockwood said. “There have been so many changes at school because of the pandemic, so we have to demonstrate that although it’s tough that we can’t have the entire school together at the same time for a big activity, it’s still exciting to be here. Everyone is so excited to be back at school.”
Added Wilkens: “We’ve been building up to a moment like this, sort of being leaders through a tough time. Whether it’s on student council or volleyball, it’s something we’re prepared for.”
Leading the student body, during a new-look school year indeed, takes plenty of preparation.
“It’s definitely more of a challenge,” Lockwood said. “But we get so many opportunities to think of creative things to do at school. We’re planning so many activities.”
That carries over on to the volleyball season, which has changed a lot due to COVID-19. The NEPSAC and FAA decided that volleyball would be moved outdoors, so the Tigers’ varsity squad is utilizing the school’s tennis courts.
A plastic volleyball court covering, known as versa court, has been placed on the tennis courts.
“We are getting used to the different surfaces,” said SHG coach Beth Wilson-Jordan, who is in her 10th season at the helm and is assisted by Amy Greer. “There are no complaints about playing in masks, we use hand sanitizors, we take breaks in the middle of games sometimes and we sanitize all the balls we play with. The girls have done very well and we’ve kept everyone safe.”
The Tigers’ season includes five scrimmages.
“Our practices are competitive and during games, we still keep stats to see if they’re improving,” Wilson-Jordan said. “At the same time, we try to incorporate some fun things.”
As one of the captains, Wilkens knows the significance of having a positive mindset.
“We have limited games, so we can’t do the same things as we did last season,” she said. “So it’s important to get people excited about what we’re doing.”
Along with Wilkens, a setter, and Lockwood, an outside hitter and middle hitter, Francisca Iraola (middle hitter), Eva Canellakis (libero) and Annabelle Hartch, who plays on the right side, are the squad’s seniors. The group turned in a productive junior season in 2019.
Junior Lucy Catalano, who has made her presence felt in the middle the past two seasons, returns, along with freshman Emilia Bernal, an outside hitter/defensive specialist as an eighth-grader last fall. The 14-player team also includes juniors Caroline Hisler, Juliette Ingram and Elisa Taylor, sophomore Martha Bernal and freshmen Madeleine Hooper, Giselle Ondieki and Kaitlin Robinson.
“This is a pretty young team, so we hope to prepare them for future seasons,” Lockwood said. “We want to show them how much fun we have, even though we are not in a big competition.”
Had it been a normal season, the Tigers were primed to make a run at the FAA title.
“We’re a pretty senior heavy team, so we were anticipating really good tournament play this year, but unfortunately, we aren’t able to do that,” Lockwood said. “Now we get the opportunity work on our skills and show the younger players everything that we’ve learned.”
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