Most people on campus would comfortably say that Country Day sports have had a good year.
Some optimists might even say it has been impressive: the boys’ soccer team finally clinched the section title after three years, the varsity volleyball team reached the semi-finals and the girls’ basketball team stormed into the playoffs for the first time in 12 years before losing in the second round.
But some pessimists, namely students, would add that this year is as good as it’ll get—that next year’s teams can kiss the same accomplishments goodbye.
“I definitely think they aren’t going to do very well,” junior Savannah Symister said. “They won’t be as good, they won’t have as many players and no one will go to any of the games.”
And here’s why.
“Because the seniors are going to leave.”
While Symister’s answer may seem vague, unoriginal and applicable to any other kind of student organization, there is some truth to it.
The class of 2013 is very athletic. All but four seniors have played a school sport in high school, with nine playing three (or more) sports every year.
The senior class also has some of Country Day’s best athletes ever.
Senior Morgan Bennett-Smith plays soccer, lacrosse, baseball and basketball and runs track and cross-country. In soccer, he was the most valuable player in the league for three straight years, and he made 34 goals this season. In basketball, he averaged 26.8 points per game.
Bennett-Smith was recruited and will play soccer for Occidental College next year.
Senior Donald Hutchinson has an equally impressive resume. Hutchinson was on the cross-country, soccer, basketball, ski and snowboard, baseball and lacrosse teams this year. He scored an average of eight goals per game for lacrosse and was the catcher for the baseball team.
He also played competitive lacrosse from fourth to eighth grade and is planning to play club lacrosse at University of Colorado Boulder.
Senior Mary-Clare Bosco will play basketball at Pomona College. She has led the basketball team since freshman year. This year, she averaged 18.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Bosco started varsity volleyball as a freshman.
And the list goes on.
With Country Day being such a small school, losing star players can mean the demise of the teams.
“Donald is an exceptional lacrosse player,” coach Brooke Wells said. “He was our captain, our main player—he played offense, defense and face-off.
“He’s one of the top 10 players in the Sacramento region.”
And without Hutchinson the offense, which used to center around him, will have to adapt.
Both Hutchinson and Bennett-Smith will also be missed on the baseball team along with two other seniors.
“It’s going to be a huge loss for us,” coach Chris Millsback said. “We’re losing our catcher (and) our number one pitcher. Morgan is also our center-fielder and lead-off batter, and Donald’s our number four hitter.”
As for the soccer team, coach Matt Vargo will be losing more than two key players.
Instead, he will be seeing off 10 experienced seniors, including Gerardo Vergara, a first team All-League goalie this year. Vergara had 69 saves this season.
“Of all the positions, the hardest to fill is a goalie,” Vargo said. “A goalie is unlike any other position on the field. It’s easier to train a field player to play fullback.”
But for some sports the greatest problem isn’t losing stars.
For track and field, losing the seniors means losing half the team. For cross-country, it’s almost the whole team.
“I don’t care how talented you are,” said Nick Domich, the coach of both sports. “I just need more people to go out running and be there.”
Domich credits the seniors with regularly showing up at practices and races, as well as encouraging the underclassmen to do the same. But he mentioned that even now, with multiple seniors, team members don’t always show up to races and meets.
“It’s hard to get people to show up,” he said. “If you had a big team of 30 people, people might be more likely to come, to feel more pressured to come.”
The varsity volleyball team is facing both a number issue and the problem of losing six experienced seniors.
According to coach Jason Kreps, the six (Bosco, Elise DeCarli, Madeleine Wright, Alison Walter, Jianna Gudebski and Natalie Polan) “took it upon themselves to make volleyball like a big thing here.”
“They put their full effort into it, meaning most of them (played volleyball) outside of school as well. That’s why it became a good team, a good program,” Kreps said.
Five of the six were starters, and without them the underclassmen must step up.
Ideally the transition is natural—the juniors become the seniors and take over leading the team, while the sophomores move up in rank as well.
But this year there were only four juniors on the team, and three are certain to not return next year. The combined loss of seniors and juniors might even lead to the cancellation of the JV team.
And here’s where another problem lies according to multiple students—there are hardly any juniors who play sports.
“The seniors are a very athletic class,” junior Patrick Talamantes said. “I think a little more than half of them play one sport or another, whereas the juniors have a very small number of people involved in sports.”
“Like what, five percent of people in our class plays? And of that five percent, they play maybe one or two, not three like some people in the senior class.”
“So, yeah, next year is going to be kind of a problem.”
However, a vast majority of the junior class does play sports—80 percent of the juniors have played a sport in high school, and 68 percent played a sport this year.
But because there are only 27 juniors, there aren’t as many players.
This year, there were three juniors on the soccer team, two on the boys’ basketball team, one on the girls’ basketball team, two on the lacrosse team and none at all on the baseball team.
Also, the number of juniors who play sports outside of school (five) is significantly lower than the seniors (14) and sophomores (11) who do.
And, Kreps said, playing sports outside of school makes a “huge difference” in an athlete’s skill.
Despite the students’ general apprehension, the coaches are staying optimistic due to the underclassmen, especially the sophomores.
Out of the entire sophomore class, only two students have not participated in high-school sports. And 73.2 percent played one or more this year.
In volleyball, Kreps will be relying on the current freshmen and sophomores, many of whom played club this year.
“It’s really up in the air,” he said. “I see us being right in the middle to above average because the other teams also lost a lot of seniors.
“I don’t think our caliber of play will be up to where we’ve been last year and the year before, but I think we’ll still be competitive.”
The same goes for the boys’ basketball team, which is losing five players (Bennett-Smith, Hutchinson, Brandon Mysicka, Jack Lewis and Tommy Peng).
“(Losing them) will be tough to get over,” coach Dave Ancrum said. “They’re seniors, they’ve been here for four years and they’ve played..”
However, Ancrum also has freshmen and sophomores who are already training.
“The underclassmen—they’re working right now,” he said. Sophomores Skovran Cunningham and George Cvetich are among those who attend Ancrum’s practices after school or on the weekends.
“We’ll take some bumps and bruises, but we’ll find our way around,” he said.
Likewise, soccer, lacrosse and baseball have a core of returning players, mainly sophomores, who will step into positions the juniors won’t be able to fill.
There is one more concern, though—morale.
“The spirit factor’s going to go down,” Symister said. “Whereas the current seniors go to senior nights to support their class, there might not even be a senior night next year.”
Amidst the unease, however, 72 percent of the juniors and 90 percent of the sophomores have expressed interest in playing next year—a comforting statistic that should keep Country Day sports alive.