Waverly tapping into youthful potential this season
The rules in New York allow junior high kids to play varsity and junior varsity sports.
Still, it's rare, especially on successful teams, to find junior high athletes getting playing time in varsity team sports.
This year however the Waverly Wolverines have counted on not just one, but three eighth graders who have all had a big impact.
With the graduation of a strong group of seniors the Wolverines have turned to Elle Nittinger, Capria Picco and Zoe Mennig to take on a big role this season.
"When we realized we had lost so many seniors, we knew we had to step up," Picco said.
While the three have had some nervous moments adjusting to playing against so many older girls, they aren't sure opposing teams even realize they are facing three eighth-graders.
"They don't really know because we are sort of the same size as a lot of them," Mennig said.
One thing that has helped all three players is that they have plenty of experience coming into the varsity level.
Mennig and Picco both have played travel ball, helping to prepare them for the varsity game.
"It helps a lot," Mennig said.
While Nittinger doesn't play travel soccer with the other two, she was on JV for basketball as a seventh-grader last year, allowing her the chance to play with a lot of the same players on this years soccer team.
"It really helped," Nittinger said. "I kind of realized that I can play with them."
Mennig also already knew a lot of the varsity girls from being around them when her sister, Sam, played softball with them.
"We are all friends, we know each other already," she said.
The older kids quickly realized the younger girls could play and helped make the transition easier for them.
"As soon as they realized we could play," Picco said of when the older kids accepted them. Playing with Zoe in travel helps a lot, we know each other so well."
"I know how she plays," Mennig said of Picco.
It can be scary at times for the three when they take on some of the league's better teams, but they quickly have gotten used to the varsity game.
"Once we got used to the pace we felt more confident," Nittinger said.
And all three believe that they have had a good start to the season.
"I think we have played pretty good," Picco said.
The fast start, the Wolverines are unbeaten on the year, and their personal success is helping to make all three players more comfortable with the varsity game.
"It makes us more confident," Mennig said.
Getting a chance to play varsity soccer at such a young age is something that has the three ready to see what the future will hold.
"I'm excited for the future," Picco said.
And, with the experience they are gaining the three believe that in a couple years they will be ready to take on leadership roles on the team.
"I definitely think we will be comfortable helping the younger girls like Emiley (Myers) and those girls have helped us," Picco said.