The moment Dorchester’s football team marched into the school's gymnasium on Thursday afternoon, the Bears' girls’ volleyball team finally had the home court advantage it’s craved ever since its volleyball program was founded 20 years ago.
After winning the first set and dropping the second in their season-opening match against Snowden (1-0), the Bears’ football team filed in along the baseline, parked themselves on medal bleachers and shouted “Let’s go Bears” during the back-and-forth third set that Snowden narrowly pulled out 28-26.
“Part of it was a distraction, part of it we were totally psyched [about],” Dorchester coach Amie Capodanno said after the 3-1 loss. “They are not used to being cheered for so loudly because they’ve never had it before. But I think they were psyched to be here on their own court. I think the tears that we are seeing now is because they are upset and that’s great, I’m glad that they care.”
Dorchester was never able to host home games before Thursday because they didn’t have holes drilled into the hardwood floor that allows for a certified net system. But thanks to a an $8,000 grant from Dream Big!, those holes were drilled in the Bears’ gym floor over the summer. The grant also paid for a red-padded net with “Bears” printed on it in white lettering.
Linda Driscoll, who launched Dream Big! In 2010 to provide underprivileged girls with the opportunity to play sports, was on hand for the match.
“They’ve been playing for two decades and the fact that they’ve never been able to host a home game it’s just such an exciting moment to be able to be here and for them to not have to travel for every game,” Driscoll said before the match. “We’ve been talking about this for almost a year now so this is exciting to finally be able to see the team play their home game on their home court and have spectators in the stands.
"This is awesome.”
There’s no doubt the crowd gave Dorchester a boost. Capodanno said the team played better on Thursday than they played all of last season when they only won two games.
“It was awesome, I feel like they did an amazing job, we had to get this one under our belt,” Capodanno said. “Having a home court is a lot of stress and I think a little dehydration and low blood sugar was a little at play here but I think they did an amazing job. I’m really impressed at how far they’ve come.”
Thursday’s match was also against a team that narrowly missed the city tournament last season before playing in the state tournament. Both teams also practiced with each other during the entire preseason.
“It was very hard but we knew we had to win this game, especially because it starts off our entire season and because it was against Dorchester,” said Snowden senior Emily Chen. “The fact that we all practice together we knew each other, we practice daily and all that. We knew that although they are our friends they are our competitors. “
In the final set, Snowden was stuck on match point when Dorchester ripped off four straight points to tie the score at 24. That’s when Chen stepped in to serve out the match, including an ace on the final point.
“I did the best I could,” said Chen, whose twin sister Elaine is also on the team. “There was definitely a lot of pressure but I knew I had to do it for my team.”
But while Snowden coach Margaret Cash-Griffin said the court and crowd provided an advantage for the Bears, Chen said she didn’t let the football team get to her.
“For me honestly it didn’t bother me, I didn’t know where these people came from but I mean I don’t know about the other team but all I can do is speak for myself,” she said. “I knew that they were here in a way but I didn’t know when they came in. But when I looked over obviously I saw them.
“We didn’t let that bother us.”
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