RANDOLPH - When the Randolph High athletic department was not able to fund subvarsity sports for this school year, a group of teenagers decided that maybe they could find the means.
The girls' soccer program was moving forward without a junior varsity team, but senior Catherine Morrill and sophomore Ashley Andrade led their teammates in a fund-raising mission that helped field a squad. Buoyed by that success, the two are trying to duplicate it for the basketball season, hoping yet again that they can raise enough money to field a JV team.
"We all came together and said, you know, that's not fair," said Morrill, who is a three-sport captain. "These girls want to come out here every day and practice with us. . . . No one else was just going to be like, 'Here is the money.' So we had to do it ourselves."
In the summer, players on the girls' soccer team learned of proposed funding cuts. A Proposition 2 1/2 override to increase the school budget failed, and all subvarsity teams were eliminated. Randolph athletic director Robert Wargo estimated that his department's budget was cut in half.
With the guidance of varsity coach Matt Tavares, the girls asked if they could raise money for the junior varsity team. They received the OK.
Tavares secured New England Patriots tickets and a parking pass for the team to raffle. The players mailed letters and asked for donations from businesses. The girls ended the fall season $800 shy of the $3,200 needed for the season, but a donation came in to pay off the balance.
Now they are selling T-shirts and working with varsity girls' basketball coach Dan Butler to fund another season.
Losing the junior varsity programs did not seem like a fair option to Andrade, who credits her JV experience a year ago with helping her to earn a spot on the varsity soccer team this past fall.
"I couldn't just go on varsity and act like I was good when I had no experience," Andrade said. "The JV was good experience."
That 2006 junior varsity team was the soccer program's first in eight years, because of a lack of both funding and interest.
The team created an opportunity for a player like Debbie Mondesir to try a new sport. And this fall, she and her teammates played with renewed purpose.
"Our season was so much better," Mondesir said. "We were more aggressive as a team. We were competitive. If we didn't have a JV team, then we would have never had that experience to get better."
Randolph is not the only school south of Boston faced with a budget crunch. Middleborough also eliminated some junior high, freshman, and junior varsity teams. The school also had to implement a $175 athletic fee.
"It's hurtful in the sense that you know you're not going to provide all of the opportunities for the kids that you want," said Middleborough athletic director Dave Paling, now in his 21st year. "And you worry if kids will play their secondary or even third sport with a $175 fee. That's daunting."
Middleborough has moved forward, but "it takes a while," he said.
In Randolph, Andrade is concerned with the ramifications of the cuts.
"If there's no sports, then the kids are just going to do bad," Andrade said. ". . . Randolph is not a bad town, but if kids stop playing the games they love, then they will get involved with bad things."
Pembroke girls' soccer coach Kara Connerty shared Randolph's inspirational story with her team.
"When we do fund-raising, it's for warm-ups or whatever," Connerty said. "This was just to be able to play. I thought it was a real nice story in terms of how dedicated they were and the fact they were able to play."
The Randolph girls' varsity team won one game this season and the junior varsity team won two and tied one. But there was more to the season. The players shared dinners after games at fast-food restaurants and they bonded on bus trips.
"I was brought up that it doesn't matter the score, as long as I'm playing," Morrill said. "As long as I get to play, I'm having fun."
Her mother, Donna Morrill, was preparing last week for the annual can drive to raise money for athletic programs.
"We have faith in the school and we have many wonderful teachers," Donna Morrill said. "We knew what they were facing and the extra fund-raising had to be there."
Donna Morrill said coaches like Butler and Tavares provided leadership to the girls all while maintaining their teaching responsibilities.
"I think maybe we, as parents, even took it for granted the last few years," she said. "The kids go sign up, they try out, and they play. It wasn't as easy and simple as that this year."
Tavares, who is also a junior varsity basketball coach, said he has been pleased to see the support from the community and also was inspired by the dedication of his players.
"It was very nice to see they all came together as a group," Tavares said.
Their spirit is great, added Wargo. "Obviously, they want these programs in place and they're showing resolve to get them in place. My goal is that any fund-raising we're doing, we're trying to earmark for next year so we have known money in place and our first goal would be to put the subvarsity teams back in place."
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.