It was a celebration that was six years in the making and a moment so surreal it almost defied description.
On Sept.26, the CSAT Lady Eagles varsity volleyball team experienced an historic moment in its brief six years of existence as they scored a three-set win over Niagara Falls to claim their first-ever win in the program’s history.
“It was really something special,” said Samantha Snashell, a senior captain who has experienced the struggles the program has gone through.
“And I’m glad I got to do it before I graduated.”
Snashell, who hadn’t tasted victory in volleyball since JV, said that on this night there was something different about the team. They played as one like never before. How in the past sometimes small mistakes would snowball into bigger problems. This time though, the girls found a way to brush off bad plays and move forward without losing focus.
Winning by scores of 25-7, 25-15 and 25-20, the Eagles also scored the first win for a CSAT varsity team since the school joined the Niagara Frontier League this fall. Head coach Doug Whitehead, himself an NFL veteran having played three-sports at Kenmore East, noted that because the NFL is so rich in volleyball talent with power house programs like Lockport, North Tonawanda, Kenmore West and Grand Island, most thought that CSAT would see its greatest growing pains in volleyball.
Even though Niagara Falls isn’t among the NFL’s best the fact that CSAT, a Class B-1 school, was able to take down a Class AA school like Niagara Falls is a tremendous victory for the program.
“Getting that win against them, that’s big. And they played well, too.” Said Whitehead. “It was definitely very important. Like I said we hadn’t won a game in forever. Getting that win was good not only for those girls (on the team now) but for those girls that I had on previous teams. They were the first people I thought of the kids who worked their butts off the past couple years for our program. It felt good. It was good for the present kids and good for the kids who came before.”
“Going into that league nobody thought that we would win,” Snashell said of CSAT moving from Niagara-Orleans to the NFL.
“Being the first school team to actually win a game I can’t even describe the feeling of actually winning.”
Fellow captain Yaya Navarro, who like Snashell has seen her share of rough nights in volleyball and softball, still smiles in disbelief when she talks about that first win for the varsity volleyball team.
“We were all excited,” Navarro said, as she wore an ear-to-ear grin. “We just all went crazy. It was like an amazing moment to finally get it done.”
Even though they lost the first few matches in NFL play, Whitehead said that he could see his girls improving. Their sense of compete and battle were increasing and the trial by fire of playing vastly more experienced programs were having a positive impact on the way his girls were playing. But Whitehead said unfortunately kids some times need the black and white of a victory to truly believe they are making progress. On this night, the Eagles said the tangible proof that they had been craving for.
For the Eagles that victory represents a spring board that has improved the mood, raised everyone’s confidence and made every girl believe that more wins can and will come.
“You could definitely tell that the girls’ attitudes got better,” said Whitehead. “They felt better about themselves. They gained a little confidence which they’d been lacking from taking their lumps for a while. They’re getting to the point where they’re getting pretty good.”