Sparta Rec Volleyball takes part in big tournament

| 25 Oct 2017 | 11:48

By Laurie Gordon
— This is Karly Swenson's first time playing volleyball, and on Saturday, she was part of a first-ever happening for Sparta Recreational Volleyball: the participation in one of PowerZone's Allegro Volleyball Club's prestigious tournaments.
“The entire experience has been so wonderful for her confidence. The coaches and players all are making her feel very welcomed and that she belongs,” said her mom, Tracey Swenson.
Karly Swenson is a twin and she and her sister, Tayte, are home-schooled by their parents, Tracey and Kurt Swenson. The home-school program is called Calvert Education, an accredited program which has similar values to those of the family.
“As a home-schooler, she can partake in more activities after school as we complete her work during the day so both my girls are enjoying more after school activities than they ever have while they were enrolled in traditional school. They take drawing class, cooking class, acting class, sewing class and now, for Karly, volleyball,” Tracey Swenson said.
Sparta Recreational Volleyball has been in existence for around seven years and is run completely by volunteers. Donna Jenkins at the Sparta Recreation Department keep it going and it was started by Natalie Takacs when it became apparent that most girls entering the freshman high school volleyball program had little to no experience playing volleyball. The program in which Swenson participates is held evenings at Sparta High School.
One of the program's coaches, Christina Saulys said, “Originally it was set up to be overseen by adults, and practices were run by the girls from the high school volleyball team who volunteered to come and help coach and mentor the girls in the program. I started helping out about four years ago when Morgan (my oldest) started playing, and Natalie's youngest (who is now a senior on the varsity team) transitioned into high school. I have played volleyball since I was in fourth grade.”
Saulys added, “The volunteer coaches I had back then fostered my love for the game, and I have played ever since: through middle school, high school, intramurals in college, and club volleyball as an adult. I still love the game, and play with different volleyball groups in the area. Both of my girls play volleyball: Morgan, a sophomore on the varsity team, and member of the Allegro 15 National Club team, and Aralyn--my 5th grader--both got their start in the Sparta Rec Program.”
The program has grown from about 20 girls to now almost 50 girls in third through eighth grades. There are still three to four volunteers from the Sparta High School volleyball team who volunteer their time to help out at every practice, and varsity Coach Derek Hall has also come to help out.
Saulys said, “ I have been able to recruit other experienced volunteer coaches in the area over the years. These coaches: Keith Howering, Stanley Liu, Reggie Pantophlet, and Scott Foy have all brought a depth and range of volleyball experience to share with the girls out of the goodness of their hearts and a love for the game.”
Several girls on the Sparta High School volleyball team play on club teams at PowerZone's Allegro Volleyball Club in Denville.
“I reached out to George Mon and Alan Masone, club owners, and hey generously offered to come and help coach a practice session, and invite four Sparta Rec teams to participate in one of their local tournaments at no charge,” Saulys said. “So, for the first time ever, Sparta Recreation Volleyball entered three teams to compete in a tournament on Oct 21. We entered a combined team consisting of 4-5-6 graders (6th grade team), a team composed mostly of 7th graders, and an 8th grade team. These teams were coached by volunteer parent coaches: Cristos Tsamadias (who was a Div 1 Rutger's mens team volleyball player!), Tracey Swenson, Liz Ward, and Chris Saulys. The girls did an absolutely phenomenal job: our 7th grade team went undefeated, and our 6th and 8th grade teams also won most of their games! They all did a great job, and have been invited back to compete in future tournaments.”
Nicole Paolercio's daughter, Sophia, played on the sixth grade team at the tournament. Her mother said, “This was such a great experience for them, and Sophia loved it!"
As for Karly Swenson, sometimes actions speak louder than words. She didn't want to take her “official” volleyball shirt off after the game.
“She was very proud to wear it and this was a great experience,” Tracey Swenson said.