The intramural volleyball team to beat this year is a pack of juniors self-named Mama Don’t Cry 4 My Swag. Led by captain Tom Whittam, CSOM ’17, and co-captain Brian Reilly, MCAS ’17, this co-ed team has won the last three intramural volleyball championships starting in the fall of their freshman year.
The close-knit team is made up of Danny Schatzman, CSOM ’17; Alex Gulati, CSOM ’17; Gabrielle Hanlon, CSOM ’17; Paige Terwilliger, CSON ’17; Mike Hart, MCAS ’17; Brielle Mariucci, MCAS ’17; Emma Thompson, MCAS ’17; JT Mindlin, a former Heights editor and MCAS ’17; Ali Rae Hunt, MCAS ’17; and Emma Sullivan, LSOE ’17. The team assembled in the spring two years ago, and a dynasty was formed. Whittam compiled a group of friends, searching for athletes who could form deep bonds and team chemistry.
Although they are all quite familiar with volleyball as they begin their fourth season together, Whittam and Mariucci had the most experience prior to freshman year. They both played in high school and contribute important skills and knowledge of the game. The other players on the team are all athletes, and Whittam believes that this fact has been very important to the squad’s success thus far.
While recruiting athletic individuals is crucial, Whittam believes that individuals’ performances are not as important as each player’s capability to work together as one unit—and he says his team does just that. “Everyone knowing their roles, everyone on the team,” he said. Strategy and positioning are also particularly key to success, according to Whittam. In each game, the setter is the person in the middle who receives the most touches, usually setting it up for a spike. Mariucci is the setter for Mama Don’t Cry 4 My Swag, and she continues to serve as the team’s play-maker—a significant decision in the team’s long-term success.
Another strategic move that gives the team an advantage is its match-ups. Often, Whittam will scout out the opposing team during warm-ups and stack up one of his many skilled players against the team’s most skilled players.
Aside from the basics of positioning and strategy, however, Mama Don’t Cry 4 My Swag has found creative, unconventional methods to improve its game. Reilly joked about many of the superstitions that the team strictly upholds: Whittam starts preparing for a match the night before by sleeping under an extra blanket. Schatzman’s pre-game meal has to be a Salmon bagel if the team is going to win. The whole team has a strict no-farm-fish policy throughout the season. During the offseason they may eat as they like, but Reily “won’t be having any,” he said. Although eccentric, the members of Mama Don’t Cry 4 My Swag swear by these rituals.
Mama Don’t Cry 4 My Swag hasn’t lost a match in its three seasons, and the team has only dropped two games within matches. The team’s biggest challenges have been its three championship games. In the first championship match, the team lost the first game, but then rallied back to win two straight games and the championship. In its most recent championship, the team faced Arnaldo Santa-Cruz, MCAS ’17, and his team, Mo No. Despite Mo No’s strong hitters and defense, Mama Don’t Cry 4 My Swag won the match in two games. “It could be compared to the 1992 Super Bowl, when the Redskins beat the Bulls,” Reilly said of the victory. The team expects nothing less than another championship this year. Whittam says his goals are to “not drop a game, to dominate, and to win with class and style.”
The team has a few members studying abroad this year, so it signed some new talent onto the roster to fill the gaps. The team looks to Hunt and Sullivan to bring positive energy and talent, and to boost team morale this season. The co-captains seem confident that the new additions will be able to mesh with the team. Mama Don’t Cry 4 My Swag doesn’t hold practices, but finds ways to bond off the court. Chemistry is a large contributor to the team’s favorable outcomes, according to the co-captains—who also believe the team’s unique name contributed to their success.
The team is currently 2-0 in its season and ranked number one. They defeated We Always Play Volleyball on Sunday, Sept. 27 in two games—and while down one player.
Featured Image courtesy of Brielle Mariucci