On the road again
Kingswood volleyball team reflects on a season away from home
COACH MIKE CHRISTY talks to seniors (l to r) Tyrra Demerrit, Kelsey Libby, Ellen Dunn, Taylor Benjamin and Brittney Newlin during a late season practice at Prospect Mountain High School. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 07, 2011WOLFEBORO — If home is truly where the heart is, it seems that the collective heart of the Kingswood volleyball team may have spent its fall riding around on a big yellow bus.
The Knights endured one of the most difficult circumstances of any of the local teams in recent memory when they had to play all but two of their games on the road and only had one week of practice in a gym on the campus of their own school.
"I told the girls from day one, we're a family, we treat each other with respect and support each other and that has to happen more than ever with his schedule," coach Mike Christy said. "But we're getting through it."
The renovation of the Kingswood Regional High School campus made things difficult from the start for the volleyball Knights. The team was unable to get in the gym to start the season and opened the preseason at Prospect Mountain High School in Alton. It was expected that the girls would be able to get into the gym in mid-September or early-October, but those dates came and went on the calendar and still the big yellow bus trip rolled on.
Finally, the week of Oct. 17 brought the girls a little relief, as the middle school gym was deemed completed enough for the Knights to practice at home and play their final two games in front of a home crowd.
The Knights spent that week at home, but when the week was over and the Knights knew they were going to have to prepare for the playoffs, they were told they couldn't use the gym anymore and once again returned to Prospect Mountain.
For their part, both Athletic Director Andrea Ogden and Christy were incredibly grateful to the Alton-Barnstead school for providing the Knights with space to practice. The Timber Wolf volleyball team also uses the gym, so making time for the Knights wasn't always the easiest thing and Ogden and Christy appreciate the work that went into it.
"From the administrators to (Athletic Director) Corey Roux, to (secretary) Kathy Bourdeau, they were all great and we really appreciate it," Ogden said of the Prospect Mountain staff. She noted that the Knights and Timber Wolves ran into conflicts only a couple times during the year.
"We appreciate Prospect Mountain giving us the court," Christy said. "Having two courts available was huge."
While Prospect Mountain has just the one gym, it can be divided into two sides with room for two different practices, which gave Christy a chance to continue the middle school program while also working with the high school kids.
"I wasn't going to let the middle school program suffer in the beginning because they didn't have a court, so we made it happen for the whole program," Christy said.
Ogden noted that it was great for the middle school kids to also get a first-hand look at what the varsity team is doing.
"It's good for the middle school kids to see what they have to strive for and what they can be part of in a few years," Ogden said.
For the Knight senior captains, the experience was something that may not have been the ideal way to spend their final year with the program, but all three agreed that the new facility will be nothing but beneficial to the Knights.
"It could've been worse, but travel every day was difficult," said senior captain Kelsey Libby. "It would've been nice to have more home games."
"It's trying, but I think we did our best and we made it work," said fellow senior captain Brittney Newlin. "We had our ups and downs with all the travel, but I think we pulled through better at the end."
"It was terrible, but I feel like it made our team stronger," said senior captain Tyrra Demeritt. "It made us work harder."
Libby was quick to praise the many parents who made the long trips all over the state to help support the team and noted that they made things all the easier.
"There were parents and hardcore fans that followed us to places and that made it better for us," she said. "And we were lucky to get this gym to use."
Newlin pointed out that the experience of traveling together nearly every day was something that pulled the team together. And she was thrilled to see how other teams welcomed the nomadic Knights to their gyms.
"This truly prepared us more," she said. "I think it built us up. And for other teams to let us in like that, we appreciate that."
Demerrit stressed that the girls who went through the tough season this year will appreciate everything more when they have a gym to call home.
"I think we'll appreciate what we had," she said. "But I am thankful for them (Prospect) for letting us use their gym. It's not home, but it's close to home."
As the Knight seniors prepare to move on from their Kingswood careers, they all believe the program is stronger than it ever has been and that new facilities next season will only help the program move in the right direction.
"It's upsetting knowing we can't get into our gym, but I know the girls will really enjoy it next year," Libby said.
"It will definitely be easier for everyone next year.
"I'm sad about it, but I am excited for them (the returning players)," Demerrit said. "It will be a new season, a new gym and a new atmosphere."
Newlin noted that she was upset not to have a gym in her senior year, but the sacrifice was worth it for those who will follow in her footsteps.
"We're a team, we don't care if you're a freshman or a senior," she said. "I'm just proud of the girls who are going to have it next year."
The girls agreed that having all three teams in the same gym this year will only serve to benefit the program in the future.
"Our middle school program is looking good," Newlin said.
"I think the program will do really well," Libby added. "He (coach Christy) puts so much time into this program."
For her part, Ogden was thrilled with the way the seniors, and the entire team for that matter, handled the tough season.
"I think they handled it great," she said. "If anything, they spent too much time together.
"There was never any complaints," she continued. "They did a great job."
While the Knights managed just a pair of wins on the season, they did make the playoffs and Christy certainly viewed that as a step in the right direction, particularly given all the team endured.
"Making the playoffs this year is huge," the Knight coach said. "Even as the 16th seed. We played with everyone."
When the construction at the Kingswood complex is complete, the Knights will have three different gyms with which to work. The middle school gym and the high school gym will provide courts for their respective teams, with bleachers and scoreboards. There will also be an additional practice gym that the team can use to expand practice time and space every afternoon.
"It's exciting," Christy said. "There's the capability of having four courts (two in the high school gym)."
"It really expands the opportunities," Ogden added, noting that the Knights are hoping to run a JV tournament with the new space in the next few years.
While the 2011 season will go down as a crazy one for the Kingswood volleyball team, it may also go down as the one sent the program off and running in the right direction.
After all, if there's anyone who knows a thing or two about constantly moving, it's the team that spent its season on a bus.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126