Before a noisy crowd of supporters for both teams, the Avengers came out on top in the Unified Volleyball state championship match against the Hendricken Hawks Saturday at La Salle, 2-1. It’s been six years since EG won the state championship – that one also in three sets against Hendricken.
“There wasn’t a more deserving team,” said Coach Patty Carosotto said of the Avengers. “More than their skill level, it was their commitment.” Part of the commitment came about through work done by students last year and over the summer. Members of the team put together a one-week camp this past summer for children with disabilities. The camp and Unified activities during the COVID-challenged 2020-21 school year helped cement relationships that blossomed on the court this fall, Carosotto said.
“Whatever we would tell them, they would execute it,” said Carosotto. “We expect so much. When they make it, we set the bar up higher.”
The match Saturday didn’t start off promising for the Avengers. They fell behind early. While they lost that first game, they were able to close the points gap – the final score was 25-18 – giving them some bounce in their step as they started the second game.
EG won that game, 25-21. Then the nerve-wracking third game began, with the score staying pretty close throughout. Junior Matthew Carosotto (son of Coach Carosotto) served that final point. He looked to the crowd for additional cheers, then calmly served the ball over the net to the Hendricken players who were not able to return it.
The team erupted in jubilation.
Coach Carosotto said everyone on the team had a big part in the win, even those rooting from the sidelines. She lauded seniors Cabot Shore and Joe Gendron for their relentless offense.
“They were just spot on,” she said of their hitting. “They were an integral part of that win.” She lauded the partners, too, who consistently set the ball for Shore and Gendron.
“The way our rotation worked out, everyone had an opportunity to help,” she noted. “Sean Giannelli had beautiful sets and was right on target with so many of our athletes.”
When it comes to Unified, however, what happens during any particular game is only part of the overall story.
When Alexis Baker hit a ball during a point Saturday, that was the culmination of hours of practice, as well as partners figuring out just how to help Baker do her best, Carosotto explained. The same with Charlie Kolb, who scored points for the team with his serve – a serve that transformed over the season from a throw to an actual underhand hit.
Work like this takes time, commitment and engagement.
“You can’t make them do this,” Carosotto said. “This has to come from their heart and their soul.”
Several players from past years were at the game Saturday, including recent graduates Emma Giannelli and Josh Land. “They set that bar for the younger partners,” Carosotto said. “If I could have given them a medal, I would have,” she said.
After the match, the EG team returned to EGHS to paint the rock in front of the school, writing “Unified V-Ball State Champs” in red and white paint. The plan? Do it all again next year, they said.
With reporting help from Cabot Shore.