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NANTUCKET — They call Nantucket the Far-Away island, and for the Monument Mountain High School Spartans of Great Barrington, that couldn’t be more true.

Climb Monument Mountain and you can peer into the state of New York.

Monument Mountain girls’ volleyball coach Kyle Henry was less than thrilled when it was announced that his team would play Nantucket in a Division 4 first-round game in the new statewide MIAA tournament.

“I knew it was going to be a pain in the butt,” said Henry with a laugh.

But his 12 athletes, who had never been to Nantucket, were excited.

“When I found out we were going to Nantucket, I was just surprised that I was going to literally cross the state to go play a high school volleyball game,” said co-captain Brianna Ayala. “Oh my God, this is going to be so much fun.”

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The 17th-ranked Spartans had to travel by bus and ferry on a 422-mile round trip to play the 16th-ranked Whalers.

It was the mountains vs. the sea. The Berkshires vs. The Rock.

The Monument Mountain team was seeded 17th in Division 4 and made a long trek for its first-round game.
The Monument Mountain team was seeded 17th in Division 4 and made a long trek for its first-round game.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The original plan was for the Spartans to depart Saturday at 7 a.m. on a school bus to Hyannis, then take a one-hour ferry ride to Nantucket. There they would play a 2 p.m. game, catch a 4:35 ferry back, and get back home around 10. A 15-hour day.

The parents cried foul.

“It was not acceptable,” said Tara Consolati, president of the team’s booster club and the “Booster Mom.” “It stressed me out a little bit because I thought the girls weren’t going to be fresh and play their best game. It was a big disadvantage to us. That’s when we petitioned the school.”

Working together with the athletic department, a new plan was devised. The Spartans would charter a bus — with bathroom — and drive to Hyannis after school on Friday. The booster club paid for a $1,000 upgrade and hotel rooms in Hyannis. They booked an 11:55 a.m. ferry on Saturday morning. Nantucket offered to pick them up and transport them to and from the gym for the 2 p.m. game.

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“We have some amazing group of parents,” said Henry. “It just made it more exciting and fun for the girls. It gave them a chance to get a good night’s sleep so they have a chance to compete.”

Getting there

The bus ride was smooth. The girls spread out in the back, with coaches and chaperones in the front.

“They were so quiet, 12 teenage girls,” said Consolati, a wedding planner by trade. “We kept turning around and saying, ‘Are they OK?’“

Most of the girls were listening to music or napping. But as they got closer to Cape Cod, they became more animated.

“They started getting a little more giggly, just being the crazy-fun and close volleyball team that they are,” said Henry.

Some players snoozed on the bus.
Some players snoozed on the bus.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

By 7:15 p.m., they were checked into the Courtyard Marriott — four to a room — and were having a festive group meal at Olive Garden. After dinner, they hugged their Booster Mom goodnight.

“We have this excitement, we’re pumped up and excited and doing something different,” said Consolati. “It’s more of an adventure for [us].”

In the morning, the players had a leisurely breakfast.

Cate Consolati, a senior cocaptain, said she slept for 10 hours. Like many athletes, she is superstitious.

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“I have to wear my hair in a ponytail, my socks have to be folded over a certain way,” she said. “Everybody has weird superstitions on the team. Ava has lucky socks, Olivia doesn’t wash her socks.”

The visitors from the other side of the state pose in front of the ferry.
The visitors from the other side of the state pose in front of the ferry.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Some players were worried about getting seasick, but the water was relatively calm for the ferry ride. Many of them sat on the top deck, outside. They took fun photos, pretending they were Kate Winslet on the Titanic. They even tossed the volleyball around in the wind.

Tori Prevzner poses for pictures on deck on the way to Nantucket.
Tori Prevzner poses for pictures on deck on the way to Nantucket.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The crossing was sun-splashed and glorious. The players caught a glimpse of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port and saw seals hanging out by the Nantucket jetties.

Gracious hosts

There is a shared history between the regions the two schools represent. According to the trustees of Monument Mountain, “On August 5, 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville enjoyed a well-chronicled picnic hike up Monument Mountain … When a thunderstorm forced them to seek refuge in a cave, their lengthy and vigorous discussion inspired powerful ideas for Melville’s new book, Moby-Dick, which he dedicated to Hawthorne.”

Nantucket, with its rich whaling history, is the backbone of Melville’s classic. The two places are linked as places of inspiration and beauty.

As the girls arrived, they unknowingly disembarked with former Governor William Weld, wearing blue jeans and toting a book bag.

Cate and Ava Cohen enjoy the boat ride.
Cate and Ava Cohen enjoy the boat ride.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The players got a peek at the cobblestoned Main Street as they headed for the Nantucket school bus.

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Their hosts were gracious. Nantucket’s team trainer offered to tape opponents’ ankles, and there was a stack of pizzas ready to go for Monument Mountain’s return trip.

Volunteers gave out colorful leis, and the fans were rowdy in the small gym. Nantucket’s team was definitely bigger than the Spartans’ usual opponents, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

Henry told his players in a pregame talk, “Everyone looks good in warmups.”

“Keep your energy up and keep smiling and picking each other up,” he said. “Enjoy this moment and leave everything on the court.”

Nantucket's Addys Del Rosa (left) and Monument Mountain's Ava Barenski battle at the net.
Nantucket's Addys Del Rosa (left) and Monument Mountain's Ava Barenski battle at the net.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The games were spirited and entertaining. The teams split the first two sets. Nantucket won the third but the Spartans rallied to tie the fourth set.

Match point proved controversial.

Nantucket’s Kacey Riseborough delivered an ace to give the Whalers a 26-24 victory.

Or did she?

The Whalers didn’t immediately celebrate, and the Spartans swore that the ball was out. Henry’s jaw dropped but he said nothing to the officials.

He expected a review, but it didn’t happen. There was an awkward silence as both teams huddled.

“You won,” the head judge finally told the Whalers.

The celebration began for Nantucket, and tears flowed for the Spartans.

Coach Kyle Henry consoles his players after a tough loss.
Coach Kyle Henry consoles his players after a tough loss.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

The two coaches later talked. Nantucket’s Andrew Viselli said he “was disheartened by the way it ended,” according to Henry.

Bittersweet ending

The bus ride to the fast ferry was silent. The game officials were seated together downstairs. The team was upstairs and took the high road, never confronting them. The Spartans took solace in the fact that they never quit and acted like champions even in defeat.

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Downstairs, the line referee said he thought the ball was in. The head judge seated at the top of the net said he was screened out.

“Don’t question the officials’ judgment until you can play perfect,” said referee Steve Rumbolt. “We’re all human.”

As they departed, there was beauty all around. A bride and groom strolled at Brant Point Light, and across the glass sea, there was a picture-postcard sunset over Nantucket Sound. The girls joked, munched on pizza, and played video games. Coach Henry told them how proud he was.

A beautiful sunset over Nantucket Sound.
A beautiful sunset over Nantucket Sound.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

“Being able to watch them grow as people and players gives me satisfaction,” Henry said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them and the opportunity to coach them.”

The bus rolled into Great Barrington at 10:30 p.m. Henry high-fived the sleepy-eyed kids, who didn’t want the season to end. On Monday, he held a last practice.

“Lots of fun volleyball games, memories, and some prizes,” he said in a text. “I took them out to dinner afterward for our end-of-season get-together.”

Mia Wade hugs a teammate after the heartbreaking loss.
Mia Wade hugs a teammate after the heartbreaking loss.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Cate Consolati, still heartbroken over the loss, sent him a thank you text:

“As much as it was hard to deal with the way it ended, I’m sure everyone can agree that this was the best season anyone can ask for.”


Stan Grossfeld can be reached at stanley.grossfeld@globe.com.