Underclassmen, Upper Echelon

Jalen Benjamin, (5), shoots a floater against Wakefield during basketball season. Benjamin is one of many impressive freshmen athletes, which span across several sports. Photo Courtesy: Varsity ViewsJalen Benjamin, (5), shoots a floater against Wakefield during basketball season. Benjamin is one of many impressive freshmen athletes, which span across several sports. Photo Courtesy: Varsity Views

It is extremely challenging to be on a varsity team in a competitive sport as a ninth grader. Furthermore, it is rare to start as a ninth grader. Yet some students in the class of 2019 are doing just that and are excelling.

Night in and night out, they must perform at a high level against more older, more experienced players.

Hannah Arostegui, a starter on the varsity women’s soccer, team explained the experience of her first varsity game. “I was kinda nervous because it was my first start for varsity, and they were pretty much all upperclassmen… it was nerve wracking.”

Nevertheless, six games into the young soccer season, Arostegui is among the team’s leading scorers. “She’s had a huge impact on the team; she scores a lot of goals,” explained Anne Marie Cawley, Arostegui’s teammate, who knows how it feels to be a freshman on varsity..

Freshmen are put into a situation where they have to grow quickly. “It can be difficult,” Cawley said, “the upperclassmen seem intimidating, but I think once you are thrown into the situation, you get used to it and it gets easier… it’s just soccer at the end of the day.” Freshmen must be ready to play against older competition, both mentally and physically. Both aspects are important. At the same time, a varsity experience as a freshman prepares them for the future. By their junior year, they will have been there and have a good chance at being the dominant force on the field.

“It’s a really good learning experience for the future,” Arostegui said, “because I want to continue my career with soccer.”

Part of the freshmen growth depends on the upperclassmen. If the upperclassmen are accepting and impart advice, it is more likely that the freshmen will be successful faster. Furthermore, they will feel comfortable in their environment, which is also vital to success. They can form a bond that is similar to having older brothers/sisters in their teammates.

Jalen Benjamin, a freshman on the varsity basketball team, acknowledged the importance of his teammates who are upperclassmen. “Their experience really helped us because in games when we were down on ourselves, they would just put their arms around us and help us get through what we needed to get through,” Benjamin said. “They taught us not only how to be a good player on the court, but off the court also.”

As the basketball season went on, familiarity grew, and the freshmen were playing at their highest level. For instance, in a round two playoff win, D.J Horne scored eight points, and Benjamin made the game winning three pointer, helping the Pride advance to the next round. Part of the growth can be attributed to experience, as well as to the guidance of their teammates and coaching staff. “They got more familiar, and they got a lot of playing time, which was good because they need the experience considering the seniors that are leaving this season,” expressed Patrick Rice, a senior and teammate of Benjamin and Horne. “They handled the pressure very well…they have a bright future ahead of them,” Rice finished.

People take notice of the young players’ success, too. After big plays are made by Arostegui, parents are overheard saying, “she’s just a freshman.” After a big play by Benjamin or Horne, the home student section erupts into chants of “He’s a freshman!”

“It’s pretty nerve wracking; a lot of eyes on you [because you are a] freshmen on varsity,” Horne said. “You have people expecting you to do a lot of things since you came straight to high school playing on varsity.”

Landon Choboy, sophomore, played JV football his freshman year, as no freshmen played varsity football. However, he was pulled up to varsity for the playoffs.

This year he started on the varsity team. “Honestly it was a tremendous help,” Choboy said. “I feel like freshmen being brought up to play varsity for at least playoffs gives them a taste of what it is like on the sideline and the atmosphere of a varsity game on the sideline, which they can’t get from the stands.” The experience was a stepping stone, and Choboy made some important plays this season.

Most importantly, all of these students a great work ethic, which helps them be successful. They stay level-headed in school and remain humble, and have personalities that make their teammates and fellow students gravitate toward them.

They are considered both the future and the present of sports at Leesville, and can take their freshmen experience into the coming seasons at Leesville. “Now we know what it’s like,” Horne concluded.

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