Friendship gives edge to Immaculata as playoffs begin

By Vanessa Lee
They practice four hours a week, play games twice a week and travel to tournaments on the weekends.

Add it all up, and it may come close to the amount of time members of the Immaculata Saints senior girls’ volleyball team spend together off the court. What makes this team special, the players insist, is that the bonds that translate onto on-court success are evident off the court as well.

“We’re all best friends,” says Laura Boland, setter and team captain. “We go to school together, we go out together, we talk on the phone . . . we’re really close and we know everything about each other.”

Together, the Saints finished the high school volleyball season atop their division standings with eight wins in 10 games. Playoffs started earlier this week, and as of press deadline the Saints were expecting the season to continue through to the final rounds of competition.

“I’m very positive about the playoffs,” says coach Amy McLellan. “We have a very experienced and strong team.”

Boland says the fact all the girls on the team are friends is unique, and has played a big part in the team’s success.

“We’ve always been friends with one another, and it just so happens that we play volleyball too,” says Boland. “We’re close enough that we can constructively criticize each other, and it’s not taken personally.”
McLennan’s voice reflects the pride expressed in her words, as she explains just how special she’s come to believe this team is during her two years as coach.

“They’re all best friends. They are the most amazing, honest and sportsmanlike players I have ever met,” she says. “They’re very inspiring to me as a coach.”

No team is perfect, and while the Saints posted an impressive 8-2 record this season, middle blocker Sandra Lofaro says the team learned from a rough patch last year.

“This is going to sound weird, but when we have fun together, we win,” says Lofaro. “If one person’s mad at another, or if one of us is down, we’re all down. Then the game doesn’t work.”

Boland says last year’s team was a lot stronger in terms of individual skills, but this year they play better as a team.

“We don’t compete with each other as individuals, we compete as a team,” she says.

Although it’s always nice to win, Boland says the players now focus more on having a good time while playing the sport they enjoy.

“Our first passion is for the sport itself. Every single person on this team loves it. It’s so much fun,” she says.

As long as the Saints keep winning games, the season will continue. But now in the playoff round, the players realize one bad game will have them watching from the sidelines.

Lofaro says the sudden-death format will keep the team even more motivated.

“A lot of us realize this could be our last game of the season and we surely don’t want the season to end, so I think we’re going to give it an extra push,” she says.

McLennan agrees.

“They will rise to the occasion when they have to, and now is the time.”