Tritons set for youngsters in Mexico

    Members of the women’s volleyball team went to Grupo, Mexico, and helped install an all-purpose Sport Court valued at $15,000 in an elementary school in December. The Tritons were helping a non-profit organization called Starlings, whose goal is to allow low-income, inner-city girls to play volleyball.

    Courtesy of Stacy Tongg

    “”We were all real inspired by the kids; they were helping and were all full of smiles,”” said UCSD head coach Duncan McFarland.

    McFarland is a long-time friend of Starlings Director Byron Shewman, and when Shewman told McFarland about this opportunity, he jumped at the chance. Joining McFarland and Shewman were UCSD Athletics Director Earl Edwards, women’s volleyball assistant coach Stacy Tongg, and two of the women’s volleyball players, Katie Hogan and Denelle Smalley.

    “”My only regret is that I couldn’t get more girls down there,”” McFarland said. “”The only day we could go down to help was the first Monday of finals.””

    Courtesy of Stacy Tongg

    Part of the reason for this being the only possible day the team could help was because of all the delays that took place: The Sport Court was delayed both in its delivery date and in customs. Shewman and McFarland went to Grupo on a day they thought the court would arrive, but even when it didn’t, they made the most of their time at the elementary school.

    “”We were so impressed by all the people there, they are coming from such poor neighborhoods — some literally living in shacks — but all the kids had their school uniforms on and were ready to learn. They were all so disciplined and respectful; they really looked like they were able to block out their living conditions and make school the highlight of their days,”” McFarland said.

    The kids at the school were not the only ones to benefit from the court or the experience, though; the principal of the school decided that because the school belongs to the community, then so does the court.

    “”I wanted the team to see what conditions are like there,”” McFarland said. “”It’s a real educational experience.””

    UCSD’s partnership with Starlings will continue on May 10, when it will host a fund-raising dinner and silent auction. On June 19 through June 22, UCSD will play host to the Starlings National Tournament, and with a little luck, one of the teams from Starling’s Mexican program will be there.

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