Sometimes the sweetest victories are those that are least expected.
When the EGHS Unified Volleyball team set off for Salt Lake City to participate in the first ever Project Unify National Volleyball Championships, they didn’t have a state championship in their back pocket to power them through. In fact, they’d come in second in the state final for each of the past two seasons.
They did, however, have enthusiasm and desire. That and a lot of practice time earned them the first ever National Championship in Unified Volleyball May 27.
Unified sports pair athletes with special needs with typically developing “partners” who do not play the sport on another school team. East Greenwich High School has participated in unified sports for three years now, first with basketball. They’ve had unified volleyball the past two years.
In the first day of play in Utah, the EGHS team played three other teams, beating the Virginia Seaborne Superstars in two sets and the Arizona Cougars, 2-1, before falling to the Arizona Panthers 1-2.
On Sunday, EG met the Cougars again and again beat them 2-1, earning a spot in the championship against the North Carolina Eagles. In that match, EG won the first set, lost the second set, then came back to win the third set, the match and the championship!
“We did a really good job in all the games. We won!” said Patrick Quinn, one of the athletes.
“We worked together as a team. That’s what did it. Also, the bonding on the team was great,” said athlete Tyler Burke. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”
It was amazing," said coach Patti Carosotto, who was helped by Coach Dave Egan. "I feel honored to be their coach. All those hard practices. Those 25 practices paid off."
The team learned they would be competing at Nationals in March. Since then, they met twice a week to practice, even as some of the players had other sports they were involved in.
"They did not let a ball drop. They called balls. They had serves. They worked with one another. They guided each other on the court," said Carosotto. "Other teams were amazed at how unified they were."
She continued, "We at least tried to touch it three times. Some of the teams were not able to do that. They were on a mission, right from the moment we stepped in the gym ... to check in. They grabbed a ball, they started running practice. That wasn’t even on my agenda."
For athlete Burke, it was more than just a tournament. “Amazing city. Amazing tournament,” he said. “I’ll remember this for a lifetime.”
Members of the 2012 EGHS Unified Volleyball team:
Tyler Burke athlete senior
Michael Carne athlete junior
Matthew De Luca athlete sophomore
Tessa Egan athlete sophomore
Jon-Erik Hurtubise athlete sophomore
Patrick Quin athlete junior
Kyle Carosotto partner senior
Matthew Cruise partner junior
Robert Kraft partner senior
Dylan Manning partner senior
Matthew McBreen partner senior
Vikram Murthy partner senior
Kim Whittiker partner sophomore
Layne Burke partner sophomore
Players on the team who participated during the fall season:
Liam O'Shaughnessy athlete freshman
Christopher Colgan partner sophomore
Scott Cullinane partner senior
Kai Wiggins partner senior