Three students. That’s it.
Because of three students, Eastchester was over the class limitations for Class B and were bumped up to Class A for the upcoming season.
The Eagles, who fell in the section semifinals last year to Hen Hud, return their top offensive and defensive weapons, but will see significant changes in more than just the schedule.
All-league libero Caroline Reid will move to outside hitter this year to give fourth-year varsity hitter Catherine Manning some relief. Senior Ashley Petrone will step in to fill Reid’s spot at libero.
“At first, it was a little rocky, as it always is at first,” Petrone said during my camp stop on Tuesday. “Coach (Kathy) DePippo does an amazing job of bringing us together and I feel like we’re all in a (position) we should be (in), so I honestly think that coming together, we’re going to be a good team this year.”
DePippo also announced that the team will be looking to break-in a new setter, tabbing senior Tyler Grant (don’t worry, Tyler is a girl) as the interim setter. Grant saw some time last year as the team’s backup setter to Stevie Capasso (Stevie is a girl, too), one of the biggest losses to the Eagles.
All changes considered, DePippo doesn’t seem worried.
“I think it’s going to be similar competition, I really do. But it’s great to see different teams,” she said.
With Pelham and Hen Hud taking massive hits to their starting rotations this year, while Eastchester remains loaded, this fall was shaping up to possibly end a 23-year title drought for the Eagles, who last won in 1989 — when they were in Class C.
“I think it can be the year for Eastchester in any class, to be honest,” DePippo said. “I don’t think the move (to Class A) will affect how we finish, because I think both classes are so similar.”
After dealing with a powerhouse squad in Pelham the last two seasons, and a dynasty at Hen Hud before that, Eastchester will now have to hurdle reigning Class A section and regional champs, Panas, if they want to end the title drought.
“Honestly, I don’t think (the move to Class A) is going to affect us that much; I think we’re still the same driven team and we’re really going to go far this year because we have good chemistry,” said Reid, pictured diving in the featured image. “I think this is our year. I think we’re going to — as seniors — bring our team to the top this year.”
Reid’s now-fellow hitter, Manning, welcomes the challenge of a match against Panas in the section tournament.
“I hope to play (Panas), they’re a great team, they went all the way to states last year; I’m looking forward to it,” said Manning, pictured right. “I think we would have a shot (to win in Class B), but Pelham and Hen Hud are always great teams — they have great coaches, they put up a strong, strong opponent, but I think we can have a run for (a section title) in either class.”
In addition to dealing with the looming inevitability of facing Panas, the Eagles will have another speed bump to be cautious with the threat of playing Horace Greeley in the section tournament. The Quakers, which are carrying two boys on their roster this year, could make a splash on the Class A scene.
“I’m OK with (Horace Greeley) carrying boys on the roster; I do believe that (the boys) should be playing backcourt only because there is a physical advantage to boys playing in the frontcourt,” DePippo said. “Volleyball is a sport where the equipment is different and the height is different, so there should be an adjustment that is made for boys playing at the girls level — and that adjustment should be boys playing in the backcourt.”
So how would Eastchester feel if it was ousted in the section tournament by Greeley?
“I think it depends on how the boys are played,” DePippo said. “I think when you have a mixed-sex team, problems are going to happen — there’s going to be issues, and people are going to have issues with it — we really shouldn’t have mixed teams, but because we have to make a concession … there needs to be a provision because there is an equipment difference.”
Featured photo credit: Xavier Mascareñas/The Journal News
Photo credit of Manning: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News