By: Jesse A. Cook (Sports Editor)
Nearing their season-capping tournaments, the Sharon High School ultimate team is short-staffed compared to their opening-night numbers. They have sustained three season-ending injuries to three of their top players, senior Sam Fergenbaum, junior Bhuvan Pottepalem, and senior Ayush Thacker.
The Eagles entered their first game, a home opener under the lights against Needham High School on April 1, with 19 healthy players. After their May 6 away game at Scituate High School, they left with 16 healthy players.
Thacker said that the injuries are just a technicality for the tight-knit team. He said, “When teammates go down with an injury, our team utilizes the “next man up” mentality to perfection. When a player is unavailable, our teammates never underperform given the circumstances, and they step up to fill the roles of the injured players, and that is what makes our varsity team so cohesive.”
Senior Captain Eddie Burr asked Thacker to repeat this quote during a halftime huddle during their May 9 15-7 win at home over Brookline.
Freshman Evan Jaffe said that the team dynamic for Sharon is the driving component behind their success. He said, “I think that the main factors behind our impressive start include our togetherness and chemistry. We work well together on the field, as one cohesive unit. We have gotten to the point where we know where each other is going to cut or where the disc will be thrown to. On both offense and defensive, our communication has been concise and accurate, and we rarely get down on each other.”
Jaffe is the youngest player on the team, the lone freshman, but he said that despite the daunting nature of being the youngest, the upperclassmen welcomed him with open arms, showing more of the Eagles’ team attitude. “Being the only freshmen on the team, I most definitely feel like the upperclassmen have been great mentors to me. Alongside helping me hone many aspects of ultimate, my teammates have taught me a lot about sportsmanship, leadership, hard work, and friendship. I have been on many sports teams before, but this group of guys has made me feel like a part of the team both on and off the field,” said Jaffe.
Senior Ethan Stafford said that last season, the chemistry was at a low, but it’s turned for the better this year. He said, “I think this year we’ve been a lot better. No matter who’s in, there’s always some type of chemistry. Last year only a few people worked together, but this year everyone can work with everyone—it’s not just a few people carrying the team.”
Coming off of two straight wins, the shorthanded team heads into a Wednesday afternoon-game against Lincoln-Sudbury High School. L.S. is 3-9 (won three straight) and S.H.S. is 5-4, so the Eagles look to extend their stretch to a nice and tidy official winning streak of three straight games. The two were scheduled to play Tuesday-night, but the matchup was rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday.
After Wednesday’s game, Sharon has just one game before the Pioneer Valley Invitational Tournament. Their last game before then is a rematch with 10-8 Concord-Carlisle High School, who the Eagles beat on the road 16-14. This game is scheduled for Thursday, May 16 on the football field at Sharon Middle School. Their last two games before the season-ending Massachusetts State Tournament are on the road in Lexington on May 21 and at home against Newton North on May 23.
Jaffe said that despite three key players being sidelined, the team has been and is more than prepared to compensate for their absences. He said, “The team has already stepped up for the absence of our three sidelined players. They all had valuable spots, on the field and off, but we all know that we must keep moving—we’re filling in those gaps nicely.”
When teammates asked Thacker when he might be back, he quipped, “Hopefully states,” but injured teammates Fergenbaum and Pottepalem were not so optimistic. Thacker is out with a sprained ankle, but Fergenbaum has bone bruising in his knee and Pottepalem has a fractured collarbone.
The Massachusetts State Ultimate Tournament takes place on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26. The Pioneer Valley Invitational Tournament takes place this weekend on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19. Both are in Northampton, Massachusetts.