Last year was a tough season for the Toll Gate boys’ volleyball team, as it never really got going and finished just 1-13 in Division II.
This year could bring a better win-loss record for the Titans, but it’s still going to be tough no matter how many matches the team manages to win.
Toll Gate currently has six total players on its roster, with a seventh likely to join over the next few weeks. There is no junior varsity team, leaving the Titans with barely enough bodies to be eligible to compete.
They’re keeping an optimistic attitude, but the situation is still far from ideal.
“It’s a concern every day, because if a kid gets injured we can’t play,” Toll Gate head coach Claire Baggessen said. “It’s always a concern when the numbers are low. We are glad that we are going to be able to participate, but concern is always in the background.”
Thus far, however, the Titans are just trying to focus on what they can control – getting better.
They’ve had one match so far, on Tuesday, and they fell 3-0 to Exeter/West Greenwich, but that was somewhat expected given the inexperience of the team Toll Gate is sending out.
Three of the six players are new to volleyball, meaning that it’s going to take some time before everything comes together.
“We have to be consistent, and we have to play as a team,” Baggesen said. “The guys are willing to do that, they’ve worked hard in practice, and we’re just going to enjoy each game as it comes.”
And the Titans do have potential.
Everything starts with senior Nick Carr, who is returning for his fourth year in the program. A middle hitter, Carr figures to be the team’s top offensive option.
“He’s our middle hitter, middle blocker,” Baggesen said. “He’s very enthusiastic to play, and he’ll probably be one of the go-to guys.”
Joining Carr in the middle is sophomore Jordan Burgos, who Baggesen is also expecting to take on a big role.
“He’s a big boy,” Baggesen said. “He’s going to be my other middle. He’s a good solid athlete, and he’s a great addition to the team.”
Sophomore Matt Davis returns to the team after playing primarily junior varsity last year, to go along with a little varsity experience.
“He’s got a lot of playing time, and he’s going to prove himself this year,” Baggesen said.
Then there are the new players, who Baggesen thinks have a chance to be effective right away but should be even better as the season goes on.
Senior Jarek Marte has been working hard in the early going, exhibiting the type of attitude that Baggesen is looking for.
“He’s definitely a team player,” Baggesen said. “He wants to learn the game, and he’s working hard at every practice. Absolutely 150 percent sportsmanship, dedication to the team.”
Juniors Dimitri Mylers and Liam-James Vaughn are also making strides, rounding out Toll Gate’s lineup.
A potential seventh player is Wellington Araujo, who may join the team within the next few weeks.
“Each day is a work in progress, and if nothing else they’ve developed a definite bond, they are a team and they can do anything if they work together,” Baggesen said.
That type of attitude will be crucial if the Titans are going to make any noise with their limited roster. They were scheduled to play their second match of the season on Wednesday against West Warwick, with the results unavailable at press time.
After that, Toll Gate’s next game is Tuesday at home against Scituate at 6:30 p.m.
And in the meantime, the Titans will just try to focus on doing what they can do with what they have, and learning from the experience.
“I think our goal is to be consistent,” Baggesen said. “I think our goal is absolutely to play as a team. There’s no question that there’s lots of lessons in athletics. Even with the smallest amount of guys, you’re going to learn diplomacy, you’re going to learn working together as a driving force. Life lessons are right there.”