Alfred E. Smith varsity volleyball makes best of unique situation

The unique Alfred E. Smith co-ed varsity volleyball team. - Photo by Jon Minners

It was the final regular season boys’ varsity game for Kennedy and Alfred E. Smith on May 1, and Kennedy’s Marquis Romero slapped a shot over the net, just out of the reach of Melany Javier to give the Knights a 25-9 win in the second straight set. 

Javier is a girl, as are teammates Rosalba Perez and Ruthy Martinez. Yet to their male counterparts and the PSAL, they are just one of the guys. 

“The girls couldn’t get a team together,” said Leandro Gil, one of the guys on the Smith team.  “I used to practice with them.  I saw nothing wrong with letting them be a part of the team.  I was for it, and if they can’t get a girls’ team together next year, I wouldn’t mind playing with them again.”

Gaining special permission from the league, Smith is one of a few co-ed teams allowed to play in the boys’ varsity division. 

And it all came about one fateful day in the fall of 2007. 

Coach Tracy Peterson came to the first practice of the girls’ volleyball team at Smith last fall to discover that only Javier would be joining her. 

The sophomore remained in practice for two weeks when Perez joined them, and then a couple more straggled in, but not enough to create a team.  Smith had to forfeit the season. 

“We only have 100 girls in the whole school,” said Peterson.  “It’s a shop school – a vocational school – and it is hard to field girls teams.  I couldn’t get the six I needed to play.”

It was also hard to get a guy’s team together.  After an 0-10 record last season, volleyball was not an option for the previous team.  Only two from the previous year returned. 

Left with only so many options, Peterson decided to bring the two squads together.  Not expecting them to be successful, Peterson was more concerned about getting the team the experience they need for 2009, should the group be separated into two squads. 

“I think we have made the most of it,” said Peterson.  “We were at a point where we couldn’t get the ball over the net.  We’ve gotten much better.  For me, scoring points against Kennedy is a plus for this team.”

In fact, Emmanuel Ortiz picked up 3 service points, including 2 aces, while George Torres was credited with a kill against Kennedy.  So was Ruthy Martinez. Most importantly, according to the team, they had fun in the process.

“It’s been an exciting season,” said Javier.  “I’m just happy to get a chance to play.  I felt bad.  I was there practicing everyday and I never got a chance to prove myself.”

And now Javier is learning from the best.  “Boys hit the ball harder,” she said.  “And I would rather they did not take it easy on us.  Playing against boys makes the girls better players.”

Smith ended the season with an 0-10 record and never won a set, but did so in good spirits. 

“My team played in the toughest division and never gave up,” Peterson said.  “They made me very proud.”

More from Around NYC