By: Simone F
Last year the boys’ Royals volleyball team was a scene of unparalleled chaos and disarray. Lack of leadership, unhappiness with the management, and a poor team atmosphere culminated in a season ended without a single victory. Fast-forward a year, and the team is undefeated, playing the best volleyball seen in years, and already booking a finals series in Aviano. Their performances and results are evidence of a complete shift in momentum, resulting in Marymount becoming a competitive school in more sports than just soccer.
As of October 13th, the league table (found on the Stars and Stripes website) places Marymount in first position with six wins and no losses. They are even above the favorites Naples, a team they defeated in a compelling encounter held on September 19th. Yet, if you scroll up on the Stars and Stripes page, your eyes will be guided to last years final standings, where Marymount are second last with a single win. Have the other teams drastically improved? A fairly regular placement in both tables by all the other teams would suggest against this assumption. However, after having interacted and spoken with some of the players, I may be able to shed some light on such a remarkable turn of events from the Marymount team.
Several factors have to be taken into consideration. First of all, the return of Lotanna Mba, who missed last season, has provided the team with a fresh impetus and a strong option to have on the field. Along with this, there is also the natural leadership he brings to the team, which, along with the solid captaincy of senior Giovanni Acampora has provided the necessary boost for the players around them. The many juniors and sophomores can in fact express their game freely, knowing that around them they have players who have already been in that position. Adding to this atmosphere of serenity, is also the introduction of coach Gilberto Gangarossa, who has thus far found the right formation, with the right balance and harmony, basing the strong performances on a simple and effective game plan. Furthermore, harmony seems to be the name of the game not only on the field, and as stated by Marco Matassa, “this year I think we are more a team, where when someone makes a mistake we try to encourage them rather than place the blame on them.” A positive influence also seems to have been that of Jean Luc Putter, who only joined the team this year. He was immediately struck by the welcoming environment that was being created and “the very nice people” in the team, resulting in his outstanding performances.
The team has developed strongly, to a point of not fearing anybody, and playing each match with serious dedication. A certain ‘sporting arrogance’ has been developed, with the team willing to take on anyone, and harboring a competitive atmosphere with everyone knowing that willingness to play and train can earn the coveted starting position. This can be identified in the words of Marco Matassa, who states that they approach every match “believing that we are the better team” both mentally and physically. Their heads are now focused on the coming finals in Aviano; matches they will most likely go in as underdogs, but regardless they’ll have the same mentality as every game, confident in affirming that after this first month and a half, “the sky’s the limit”.