By Kalina Natcheva, contributing writer
As the 2021 Nantucket Whalers’ regular volleyball season came to end on October 31st, the team began to prepare themselves—both physically and emotionally—for the future: the state playoffs. The Whalers volleyball team’s grit and determination on the court was reflected in their long-term achievements, as they successfully qualified for the Massachusetts Division 4 state tournament with a final record of 12-6, and finished 3rd in the Cape and Islands League. Fans of all ages were eager to attend the tournament matches, as the team gradually gained recognition while their season progressed.
Flashback to the day of the first match, Saturday, November 6th, 2021, where nerves were high, the gym was packed with spirited fans, screams were echoing, and everyone was anxiously wondering the same thought: who would win? Nantucket, the 16th seed, was set to play against Monument Mountain, the 17th seed, and the winner was destined to move onto the next round of the tournament. The first set began and hopes were high for both teams, as every player wanted to experience the pride and victory associated with a winning match. Nantucket started the match off with fierce momentum as they managed to capture the first set by a few deciding points (25-22). Junior Outside Hitter, Kacey Riseborough, led the team in kills with an impressive record of 25 and a 0.486 hitting percentage, while sophomore Outside Hitter, Chloe Marrero, also contributed a remarkable 15 kills along with a 0.429 hitting percentage.
Monument Mountain managed to secure the second set 25-22, as the Whalers Volleyball team briefly faced a challenging team dynamic issue. Marrero reflected on the miscommunication that the team had faced during their regular season, and voiced her opinion that “we all have such a strong connection off the court, I feel like we just need to channel that same connection when we’re playing. Volleyball is special that way, since everyone on the court has to be in tune with each other in order to play effectively.” The players had a “change in mindset” after the second set, which ultimately led them to a thunderous victory as they won the last two sets, (25-14 and 26-24) the final one being being by two points.
Senior Captain, Viktoria Krasteva, expressed her pride in her teammates: “I believe that this team is capable of winning anything that they want. These girls strive to be the best and get angry at themselves for not being the best, and every year something changes for the better- that’s what makes it so unique.” Krasteva has been an early member on the team, as she began playing in 9th grade, and she has made sure to motivate each player on the team—no matter the age or experience level.
The first match of the postseason tournament generated momentum for the team, as they were set to face off against the number 1 seed in Massachusetts Division 4 High School Volleyball, Ipswich. Despite giving it their all, the Nantucket Whalers Volleyball team was defeated 3-0, which ended the Seniors’, (Viktoria Krasteva, Amelie Roberts, Adrienne Riseborough, Bella Quinn, Yvie Scarlett, Isabelle Morreria, Nathali Lopez, and Keith-Anne Maynard) highschool volleyball careers. Other players, however, such as Freshman Setter, Bianca Santos, and Libero, Viktoria Todorova, have experienced simply the beginning of Whaler volleyball, their volleyball careers only beginning.
Krasteva illustrated the Ipswich game’s scene, as she revealed that “in the 3rd set of our game against Ipswich, when the score was 24-16, I knew it was over. I knew that it would be the last high school game that the seniors would play in. But it didn’t stop me from being there for them and telling them to keep fighting, even though in my heart I knew it was over. Although we lacked communication, we never gave up the fight.” Instead of being disheartened after the loss, the team acknowledged their achievements together, as they were proud of what they had accomplished.
Senior Right Side Hitter, Yvie Scarlett, shared her input on the team’s journey, emphasizing that “this season was probably one of the best seasons we’ve had so far.” Scarlett also revealed that, “We performed incredibly well and we had more support from outside the team than we have had in the past. It didn’t matter if you were a senior or a freshman, or if you were on or off the court. The support was wild, and I felt like every single kid was always putting in their best effort”. Although a tournament loss was endured, the members of the volleyball team have passionately voiced their mentalities for next year, as they are “ready and determined to face each opponent, match by match” according to Scarlett.
Since many of the seniors are graduating in 2022, the remaining players have had to think about what their upcoming seasons will look like as a team, and how they will fill the void that the seniors will leave. Riseborough noted that “losing eight seniors will definitely have an effect on our team, since we won’t have the exact same positivity and dynamic on and off the court.” Riseborough also revealed her predictions for the upcoming seasons: “We will all have to fill in the gap that our great seniors left, but I know that we can all do it.” As the team is losing a significant part of their volleyball family, they will have to remain motivated and fearless if they want to achieve their ultimate goal: to win together.