GEMS topples Titans for volleyball championship

7th-Grade Panthers rule
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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In the greater scheme of things, it may not seem that important, but for a child, it can be life changing.

Such was the success of the Glen Edwards Middle School seventh-grade girls volleyball team when they took down cross-town rival Twelve Bridges to win the Foothill Interscholastic School Athletic League championship this season. Not only was it a victory over the Titans, it was the school’s first league title.

“The kids were so excited to beat their rival,” said GEMS head coach Lori Reitman. “It’s always different on other campuses, but when it’s your rival school and they beat us for many years, I’m not going to lie, it felt pretty good.”

Of course, Reitman deferred the credit to her team: Isabella Robles, Sarah Vandeveer, Isabella Venegas, Eden Wage, Victoria Randall (team MVP), Aidrienne Vite, Kamia Pratt, Kaylee Hall, Ellen Fuller, Emalee Toto, Isabella Fernandez and Brook Roeker.

With five players having virtually no volleyball experience, Reitman was able to rely on the leadership of Randall, Roeker and Toto. Randall did have some club ball experience, but Reitman said it was the glue the trio provided that kept the Panthers going.

“They never got down. They kept everybody up,” Reitman said. “So when there was a period of time where things kind of got down they would bring the team back around.”

Down time started early when Twelve Bridges came calling for the first league match of the season and handed GEMS’ a 2-0 loss, but things changed after that.

The Panthers then won six games in a row and Reitman began to see a change in her players – like Pratt, her littlest athlete.

“(Pratt) was tiny, but the most improved,” the coach said of her back row player. “She had no fear of the ball.”

After finishing the regular season 6-1, the Panthers packed up for the FISAL Volleyball Championship Tournament at Cavitt Middle School. After beating Olympus to begin the tournament, it was back on the court against nemesis Twelve Bridges.

In a Titan-ic battle, Glen Edwards emerged a 2-1 victor to earn the championship banner that now hangs in GEMS’s gym and marks a turning of history’s pages.

“It was just one of those years where we got 12 girls together; they really worked well together as a team and they really wanted to grow,” said Reitman, who heaped praise on the players, parents and the Lincoln community. “I truly believe in my heart that things are going to change for us.”