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Optimism Surrounds Yellowjackets’ Fall Sports

Photograph by Samuel Heller

For many Berkeley High School (BHS) students, the end of summer is a time of relaxation. However, for fall sport athletes, the end of summer is packed with tryouts, preseason workouts, and practices.

The girl’s volleyball team’s season is already in full swing, as they had their first match on August 21st, along with a tournament. Last year, new head coach James Manuel led the team to the North Coast Section (NCS) post-season tournament. Captain Oona Bruss described last year’s season as “a learning experience because many of us were forced to try new positions to fill in for graduated starters and we had to learn to work with a new coach.” This year, the team gained many new players, following five seniors who graduated last year. However, junior Eliana Ives has confidence in the new lineup. “The lineup I assume we will have this year is strong and determined to win,” said Ives.

This year the team’s goals are to beat rival Bishop O’Dowd and make it to NCS again. “We also hope to have a winning record and show consistency and improvement throughout the season in our effort levels, attitude, and skills,” Bruss added. Bruss described the team as “a tight knit group of girls… we are family both during and after the season.”

Another team hard at work has been the girl’s tennis team. The team held tryouts the week of August 13th and began practicing shortly after. This is the first year that the team has separated into both a JV team, along with a Varsity team. Sasha Turchak, a senior on varsity, said last year’s season was a successful one. “We had some really good wins and overall really good sportsmanship and effort from everybody,” said Turchak. She also added this season has lots of potential, as many new skilled players have joined the team. The team’s goals are to beat some of the teams they were previously defeated by such as Piedmont, Alameda, and Castro Valley. “Although tennis is an individual sport, competing and supporting your teammates is a really great thing and makes the experience better overall,” Turchak said.

This year marks Coach Bill Gaebler’s 42nd season of coaching Water Polo at BHS. Gaebler said last season was one of growth for the girl’s team. The team had eight seniors graduate, which was most of the starting line up. Because of this, many new players joined varsity and “the incoming freshmen had to quickly learn how to integrate with the returning players,” Gaebler said. This season, the biggest change for the girl’s team was its explosive growth. A total of 70 athletes, including 30 freshmen, have indicated interest in water polo this season.

For the boy’s team, Gaebler said last year’s season was “one of learning how to play together and to compete at the varsity level.” Similar to the girl’s team, the boy’s team graduated sixteen seniors, which is the equivalent of more than two full squads. “To replace them with first and second year former junior varsity athletes and expect stellar results would be a Herculean obstacle for any team to overcome,” Gaebler said.

Gaebler said his goals for the girl’s and boy’s teams are the same. His first goal is to have fun. “Playing in athletic contests should be both challenging and fun,” Gaebler said. Next, his goal is that the players grow as a team and improve throughout the season, both collectively and individually. Also, he hopes that both teams win the League Championship in late October. His final goal is for both teams to qualify for postseason play.

“Watch one of the hardest games to play, and find out why water polo is the team to be on at BHS,” Gaebler said.