By Keith McShea
I spoke with City Honors girls volleyball senior captains Sade Hellams, Tyler Carpenter and Ashley O'Hanrahan following the Centaurs' three-game sweep of East Wednesday evening.
It was the first league match that Honors 18-year coach Deborah Matos coached since being reinstated after being placed on administrative leave.
What are your thoughts on having coach Matos back?
Sade: "We’re just happy that she’s back. We’re like a family, and it’s almost like our family is back together, just the way it’s supposed to be. We’re all united again."
Tyler: "Without her, it was kind of hard, but we knew that we had to push thorugh it, and as captains we had to step up. Having her back is really a great thing."
Ashley: "It’s a lot smoother. I had to help our JV coach coach the team because she didn’t know rotations and stuff like that. With her back, it just run a lot smoother and easier. We all feel more comfortable as a whole."
What was it like during her absence?
Ashley: "It was really stressful for all of us, especially, because we knew we had to lead the team. It was stressful in general, because we were missing a coach, and we have a ton on school work because of the school we go to. It was hard on all of us."
Sade: "Volleyball is a mental game as much as physical. And when something that serious happens, it’s really hard to put your phsyical game out there completely when your mental game isn’t tjhere. For me, that was the hardest part.
"Getting the team back together and focused was definitely the worst part. They look up to us because we’re captains and we’re seniors, and we had to keep a straight face and say everything was OK when we inside we knew everything not’s OK. We didn’t know ourselves."
Tyler: "It particularly hit us hard because this is our last year playing. We were like, 'Oh no, what’s going to happen to our season? Like this is supposed to be the season we’re going to do big things."
Sade: "And what if she didn’t come back, were we going to finish our season without our coach?"
Ashley: "We all thought about the what-ifs, and I think that’s what brought us down the most, mentally. Because we thought, what if our season ends here? We didn't have an advisor one of the days, so we had to cancel practice. That was hard. We don’t EVER not have practice. That day was weird in general."
What was it like to visit with the superintendent to try and get coach Matos back?
Sade: "The entire team was a part of that. ... And there were like 50 or more alums who signed a banner. It was a very collective effort.
"There was a lot of jitters, and a lot of emotions, ebcause we knew how big it was. There were a lot of tears, a lot of emotions. There have been a lot of emotions this whole time.
"Meeting the superintendent was a big deal, because we felt like at that point, we had a voice. Because before then, we didn’t have any answers, they didn’t notify us beforehand, we knew the day [Matos was placed on leave] that she was leaving.
"They wouldn’t answer any of our questions — and now we had a voice, a part in bringing our coach back, which I think is the most important part: listening to girls and players rather than parents who are not always with the coach."
Was there any reason you thought that she had to be suspended?
All three: "No."
Tyler: "She’s just a coach that wants to win. She was pushing us to win. That’s what we all want to do. She’s just doing her job the right way, the way she’s supposed to do it."
Sade: "She’s a coach, she’s not on the sidelines to sugarcoat things. If she sugarcoats things all the time, how else are we supposed to get better? If we make a mistake, she’s going to notify us, she’s going to let us know. If it’s necessary she might take us out of the game, give us a breather, and put us back in … that’s going to happen, it’s what a coach does."
Ashley: "She’s a coach, not our mother -- she’s doesn’t have to go, 'Oh, great game.' If she did that, none of us would play as well as we do.
Tyler: "And we wouldn’t be the program that we are today."
Sade: "It’s what sets us apart from the rest of the whole school: The coach, and her dedication, and the determination we have as a team."
Is this just about people thinking she's too tough?
Sade: "She doesn’t do it to be tough. She is one of the sweetest women that I know, personally. She has helped me and the rest of our team so much, financially, emotionally, throughout our entire time on this team. She’s a coach! That's what she is. She’s a coach and she’s a great woman."
Tyler: "She’s definitely helped all of us mature as young women. She’s more than a coach, she’s family."
Ashley: "She’s our main supporter, that's volleyball, school, anything. Tyler and I sprinted down here before the game to tell her we got a 100 on our physics tests, and she was so proud of us. She gave us high fives. She’s basically a stepmother to every girl on the team."
Is there a sense of, 'why did we have to go through this?'
Ashley: "Oh yeah."
Sade: "At this point, we’re all just happy that she’s back, so we can move past it and move on."
Ashley: "We’re just trying to forget about that -- like it was a blooper in our main movie."
Tyler: "Because now we’re on the road to states."
Sade: "Definitely, on the road."
Ashley: "Literally: Nov. 17."
Tyler: "Glens Falls."
The players referred to their goal of reaching the state championships in volleyball, which are held Nov. 17 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
taggedCity Honors | Volleyball