Following the example set by Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst, and Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, is officially now a co-ed institution.
A total of 80 girls have joined the new freshmen class. Naturally, with girls in the school comes the birth of girls’ sports in the Knights’ athletic program.
The young ladies have begun settling in to two new teams this fall: girls’ volleyball and cross-country. The theme of making history has become a rallying cry for both squads.
The volleyball team of 15 freshmen will compete in the GCHSAA’s junior varsity ‘AA’ division, so the competition will be fierce right off the bat. However, the team has a pair of coaches with vast local volleyball experience.
Head coach Michelle Daus played volleyball in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) at Holy Child Jesus, Richmond Hill, before becoming a team captain at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates. She continued her career at the next level at Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y.
She’s been an English teacher at Holy Cross for parts of 11 years, so she’s thrilled about the opportunity to be able to coach the sport she loves.
Daus’ assistant and fellow Holy Cross English teacher, Theresa Roesch, began her volleyball playing career in CYO at St. Joseph’s parish, Astoria. She then played at St. John’s Prep, Astoria, before coaching at St. Joseph for 10 years.
The interest level in volleyball was so great among the new freshmen that the team will be able to field a full practice squad. These student-athletes will gain valuable experience as they hone their skills for their sophomore season. So far, the inaugural season on the court is off to a promising start.
“The girls are already working together as a team,” Daus said. “We’re becoming more confident before the season starts. I’m so proud and excited to be part of this. It’s history making, and I think they’re (her players) starting to see that as well. They’re becoming role models for the future girls coming in.”
These girls are in quite the unique situation. The freshmen class is the only one with girls for now, but that only further motivated these student-athletes to be trendsetters.
“When I walked into the school, it felt very welcoming,” said Sara Keenan, a freshman volleyball co-captain who played CYO at St. Mel’s, Flushing. “Being that we would be the first-ever girls was pretty cool, and being able to be part of the volleyball team as the first girls I thought was awesome.”
Participating on a sports team undoubtedly helps with a student’s transition to high school, and these girls have thrived already from being able to meet some of their classmates well before school began.
“All the girls that come after us into the school will look at us to be there for them and to give them advice on what to do,” said freshman Elena Delgado, who was elected a team co-captain during just her first year of organized volleyball. “Girls are always so social, so they’ll always be there for me, whether it’s volleyball season or not.”
Similar to volleyball, the Holy Cross cross-country team now also has girls. They’ll join the boys as the school’s first co-ed team, though the boys and girls compete separately.
Through the first few weeks of practice, team members have already sensed the historic vibe of the season as they push each other to do their very best.
“It’s really exciting because we’re going to be known as the team that first had the girls in the school, and everyone’s going to remember our team,” said junior co-captain Michael Vitale.
Even though there are new team members, the mindset for the runners has remained the same.
“Boys or girls, we push each other to the limits and make sure we’re all doing our best,” said Greg Papantoniou, a junior co-captain. “We just really work hard with each other, and that makes everything better.”
Entering her fifth season as head cross-country coach, Cathy Quinn – a lifelong marathon runner – said the team chemistry since the girls arrived has been “a beautiful thing.”
Only two of the 16 new freshmen ran competitively before coming to high school, so Quinn is eager for the challenge of teaching them to think like runners. The season opens Saturday, Sept. 8, as the freshmen tackle the 1.5-mile course at Van Cortlandt Park, the Bronx.
“It’s a great feeling here at Holy Cross that the girls are coming in,” Quinn said. “They all have the same mindset. They’re very confident; they’re very strong. Each race, they’re going for the their personal best, so my goal always is to make each race a little better for them.”
With the support of athletic director Keith Goggin, ’92, and the entire faculty, the new crop of girls is ready to leave their mark on the school community.
The volleyball court and cross-country track are just the beginning, as the busy first year is set to include as many girls’ sports as possible.
Watch out GCHSAA: These Lady Knights are here to stay!
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.