Fresh Faces on the Field

A glimpse of underclassmen’s lives as varsity athletes


Freshman Dominic Gianino watches the play happen in front of him in a game against Timberland. Gianino is the lone freshman on varsity and often plays nearly the whole game.

Before the class of 2026 began roaming the hallways, they headed for the fields. Leading up to the week of tryouts, August 8th, fall participants had spent their whole summer, for multiple hours a day, five days a week training for their sport. Most freshmen expect to make C-Team, primarily an all freshman team. Some freshmen could see themselves making junior varsity. But a select few found themselves in the varsity lineup. Varsity softball, cheerleading, and soccer had underclassmen join their teams. For incoming freshman Dominic Gianino, the thought of being on varsity soccer felt like a long-shot.

“I mean, I was probably expecting to make JV because I heard we had a lot of seniors on varsity so I didn’t think there was going to be a spot,” Gianino said. 

With teams having plenty of seniors, boys soccer with 17, connecting with the upperclassmen is hard. Freshman Amelia Iden detailed how varsity cheer held team bonding sessions over the summer to help acclimate the upper and lower classmen in a lower stress environment. For teams with existing chemistry, like varsity softball who went to state last season, joining seems intimidating. Sophomore Riley Henderson, joined the team this year and had no problems getting along with the upperclassmen on her team.

Sophomore Riley Henderson runs to first base after bunting against Troy. Henderson plays the outfield and pinch hits for pitchers and catchers. (Brock Slinkard)

“Today is [an] early release Wednesday, and after school, every single underclassmen will go with one of the upperclassmen and we’ll all get food I think, like they take care of us,” Henderson said. 

However, being on a new team comes with new expectations. With practice daily and games in between, standout freshman on the softball team, Kiana Kluesner described that the workload takes some help from her teammates to adjust to.

“Yeah, we’re a little behind sometimes, but the upperclassmen normally, like, make sure we’re good. They don’t yell at us. They just tell us because they know we’re new,” Kluesner said. “So they’re very polite with things like that. Like say we forget to pick up a bucket of softballs, and they’ll remind us, you know, that we had to come back and help.”

Besides the dynamic and team responsibilities, underclassmen have to adjust to their academics too. Beginning high school and starting to play varsity sports all within the same semester is challenging and takes an extra step for success off of the field. 

“Well, it was a little difficult [to adjust] at first, but once you figure it out, like a set schedule, it makes [homework] easier,” Kluesner said.

With all the new experiences for the underclassman, an upperclassman to help mentor them can be extremely helpful to ease some nerves. For the now-senior, year-round varsity athlete, Aidan Hernandez, seeing underclassmen succeed at this higher level hits close to home for him. He was once in their shoes, an underclassman playing on varsity.

“It’s always special when a freshman makes varsity and I know it can be hard to adjust so I try to give any advice I can. I have ended up bonding with some of them and we end up having a pretty good friendship,” Hernandez said.

Despite the changes to their daily lives, underclassmen have earned their spots on varsity and are excited to put their mark on the athletics here. 

“It’s definitely hard but it gives you something to look forward to and to give you a reason to be at school every single day,” Henderson said.