GVS and GVVB make history in undefeated seasons

Community at forefront of both teams’ successes


Ford Legg, Sports Editor

Asher Parker-Satori ’23 watched Girls Varsity Volleyball (GVVB) Co-Captain Madera Longstreet-Lipson ’23 spike the ball for her 12th kill of a home game against Middlesex School, which they won 3-0—their 18th win in a row and 15th game in a row without losing a set.

He raced across the field to see Girls Varsity Soccer (GVS) Player Ava Venuti ’23 place a shot top-corner from a freekick to start a home game against Middlesex that they went on to win 5-0— their 29th win in a row and 13th game in a row with no goals conceded.

“Every single game, I’m blown away by the skill of the athletes whom I’m used to seeing only in academic settings,” Asher said. “We don’t always get to see all the talents of our peers, so I really appreciate them when I do.”

This fall, both GVS and GVVB had undefeated regular seasons, the best records ever in the Independent School League (ISL), won their respective ISL Championships, and GVS won the New England Class A Championships.

The GVS and GVVB games became beacons for community members to connect over the success, Director of Athletics Chuck Richard said.

“I had alums from all over the country reach out looking to see if we were live-streaming the games,” Mr. Richard said. “I had a conversation with a group of alums from the class of [19]50. Some of these folks are in their late 80s, early 90s, having lived through World War II, and they were thrilled with the success of our girls while being part of that all-boys [Browne and Nichols] class.”

Mr. Richard said he noticed players cheering and high-fiving on the bench, but when they stepped into the game, they were poised to compete.

“There’s so much pressure around higher- level sports, and it’s so easy to get lost in the competition, but these athletes had fun together, which carries a team a long way,” he said.

He added that the partnership between coaches and athletes strengthened the teams.

“The coaches fostered a tightly-bonded cohesive team culture,” Mr. Richard said, “and the individual players, especially the seniors and captains, were like coaches on the field and in the gym.”

Head GVS Coach Graeme Blackman ’10 has led GVS to be the New England Class A Quarterfinalists (2016), Semi-Finalists (2018), Finalists (2017), New England Class A Champions (2019, 2021), and ISL Champions (2017, 2021).

This year, the team averaged four goals scored a game, and no goals were conceded by goalkeeper Katie Lynch ’22 during the regular ISL season—a never-before-done feat for any ISL team.

“The beautiful thing about our team is they’re so close off the fields. It’s very easy to play well when the players on the team care so deeply about one another,” Coach Blackman said. “In those tough moments, they don’t get negative; they pick each other up, which is why we prevailed in those tighter games.”

Coach Blackman said GVS is founded in competitive greatness, which he defined as loving the hard battle because it presents the opportunity to do your best when your best is needed.

“The team bought into the team-before-self mentality and not getting caught up in playing time or individual performances but focusing on the collective,” he said.

In the future of GVS, Coach Blackman said, he sees a continuation of the team’s hard work and success.

“We, GVS, like to differentiate between our expectations, which are to work hard, show up early, and put the team before ourselves, and our aspirations, which are to win the ISL and the New England Class A. Our aspirations can come to fruition if we uphold our expectations,” Coach Blackman said.

GVS Co-Captain Sarah Sullivan ’22 placed on the First All-League ISL Team, All-League New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Team, and All-League State Team along with fellow co-captains captains Molly Martin, Meredith McDermott, and Sam Suplee (all ’22).

Molly and Meredith also placed on the All-League New England Team and were named the ISL Most Valuable Player (MVP) and NEPSAC Player of the Year, respectively. Katie Lynch placed on the Second All-League ISL Team.

When the final whistle blew of the New England Class A Championships against Worcester Academy on November 21, the emotions of GVS coming to a close finally hit the seniors and made Sarah realize how unique this team was, she said.

“When playing at the University of Pennsylvania next year, I’ll play like how Coach Blackman described this team: gritty, relentless, and together,” she said. “Through team dinners before games and cheering on the bench, we created a community built around support.”

Lila Sullivan ’25 said the best part of scoring a goal in the New England Class A Championships was the hugs and warmhearted comments from the team afterward.

“My biggest takeaway from the seniors will be that team comradery and kindness don’t end when I walk off the field,” she said.

Ava Venuti ’23, who placed on the NEPSAC Junior All-Stars with Frankie Valverde ’23, said the seniors’ leadership extended off the field.

When Molly had an emergency appendix surgery midway through the season, she still came to send off the girls to their game at St. George’s less than 24 hours after her surgery, Ava said.

“On those games, she was unable to play, she became the loudest cheer on the bench, and we played for her,” she said.

Ava is looking forward to her final year at GVS she said.

“The season is over, but the work is not. We’ll continue working hard on our own until the season starts again and we can show all that we’ve worked for,” Ava said.

GVS Team Manager Natalie Rudnick ’23 said she loved immersing herself in the crowd by joining in on the cheers and jumping into fan celebrations for every goal.

“I was able to meet such a wide range of community members I don’t see in my everyday life, all bonding over the achievements of GVS,” Natalie said.

GVVB games, Spectator Ja’Niya Ellcock- Crayton ’23 said, also bonded the school community.

“The atmosphere was electric every single home game. I was surrounded by friends in the stands, enjoying the wins. It was something I could always look forward to,” Ja’Niya said. “Volleyball is fun, but good volleyball is more fun,” Head GVVB Coach Jeff Emenaker said to the team before every game.

Good volleyball is not about whether you win every game but creating an environment where the players are not afraid of making mistakes and prevailing through adversity, he said.

Coming from last year’s season of practices on grass and no games due to Center for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines, GVVB went on to several aforementioned successes and 17 more wins than in their 2019 season, when they won three games.

At the first GVVB tryout on September 1, most of the team had not spent time with one another, and three of the freshmen soon-to- be starters were about to depart for two weeks at Bivouac. However, they rapidly bonded and created a relationship that never wavered, Coach Emenaker said, organizing numerous team dinners at players’ houses before games and secret turkey, a Thanksgiving-themed gift exchange.

“This was the closest volleyball team I have ever seen,” Coach Emenaker said. “They really liked playing volleyball and playing volleyball with each other.”

Coach Emenaker said midway through the season, after consistently winning matches and only losing one set, it would have been easy to tone down the drive.

“There were multiple times we were trailing within a set, but we came back in and used the bonds we had created outside the court to work as one team,” he said.

Kate Jiang ’23, who was named ISL MVP and, along with Madera, placed on the First All-League ISL Team and the All-League NEPSAC Team, said the team has no singular player or even a few players that the team completely relies on; there’s depth stretching into the bench.

“Individually, we’re all strong players, but when we play together, we complement each other and make each other better than we would be on our own,” Kate said.

Madera said every member of the team is contributing whether they’re playing or not.

“The bench represents our team mentality: we’re supportive of the people on the court and want each other to succeed,” Madera said.

A specific game at St. George’s in Rhode Island stood out to Madera, she said, when after a two-hour bus ride of listening to music and getting ready, they walked into a gym of over 100 St. George’s fans.

“They heckled and mocked us the entire game, but we never wavered. We pushed through the fans’ negativity and won the game 3-0,” Madera said. “That showed us the environment of the game doesn’t have to affect how we play.”

Madera did not have expectations coming into the season; no past seasons pointed to BB&N being the strongest volleyball team in the ISL, she said.

“We had so many new players that it was impossible to know what would happen, but we kept winning games, and winning became the standard. We began expecting to win.”

Though GVVB lost the NEPSAC Class B Championship game at home against King School 0-3 on November 21, Madera said, she appreciates what the team accomplished this year.

“There’s a lot of things to be proud of and a lot of skill that will carry into next year,” she said.

Sherry Ren ’24, who placed on the First All-League ISL Team and, along with Sofia Khoury ’23, was an All- League NEPSAC Honorable Mention, said the team benefited from the team-before-self mentality.

“We all want to do well and are constantly trying to improve our team as opposed to the individual player,” she said. “We’re not practicing to show off in the next game or have our moment in the spotlight; we’re practicing to win.”

In January, updated GVS Class A Champions and ISL Champions banners will hang in the Nicholas Athletic Center gym, and the school will hang the first GVVB ISL Champions banner.