Dolphins Season Washes Away Amid Playoff Controversy
By Elio Velez
The High School of Environmental Studies, who beat Far Rockaway in the second round, just won the Girls Volleyball Varsity B championships by beating Canarsie High School. But Environmental may not have faced the best team in the 2002 playoffs. Beach Channel, who had won the PSAL B Queens Division with a 10-0 regular season record, was about to play a second round game on November 12, when extenuating circumstances occurred before the game. At the end of the day, Beach Channel was eliminated without even serving the first ball and controversy would soon develop.
The Dolphins traveled to Aviation High School to play Brooklyn Global Studies in the quarterfinals. The team arrived a half-hour before the 5:30 p.m. start on that rainy cold day. Rose Thelusma, one of the seven players, was not feeling well.
"She was not feeling her bubbly self that day, always smiling and giggling and that was unusual", Head Volleyball Coach Mark Sanchez said. Thelusma, who was suffering from a undetermined virus, passed out to the gymnasium floor. "We (the players and Sanchez) took her to a chair, tried to revive her and she is not responding." Sanchez adds, "She was shaking and incoherent. She was out cold."
As Sanchez and the players were worried about Rose’s condition, security personnel called EMS to take Thelusma to nearby Elmhurst Hospital. Sanchez, the only adult with the team, accompanied her to the hospital until the parents arrive, as according to PSAL rules. The game would still have been played with six players, but with no other adults present the game could not continue.
Sanchez stayed with Thelusma. Her brother and mother arrived at the hospital at 8:45 that evening. Rose’s condition improved with an IV and was discharged from the hospital shortly thereafter. The remaining six players kept in touch with Sanchez at the hospital. They later returned to the Rockaways with their parents.
Some of the team members had thought there would be a rescheduling of the game, considering there was three days, Wednesday to Friday, before the next round of playoff games would occur. But as Sanchez arrived home, and checked out the PSAL website, the PSAL had already made the decision to forfeit the game.
"You’re penalizing these kids who have a 11-0 record and you’re hurting them", Sanchez told PSAL Volleyball Commissioner Fred Rodriguez the next day. Rodriguez was present at the playoff games. He had told Brooklyn Global that day that the forfeit would occur and it would be unfair to make any changes.
"My Athletic Director, Harvey Pyser, called Girls Volleyball Sports Coordinator Glenda Bies-Berry (who is above the commissioner), who unfortunately said no (to rescheduling). The sad thing is the ladies are good students, have good grades, work out in the afternoon and also would come in at 6:30 or 7 a.m. before school started. That is how they got to an 11-0 record."
Transportation A Problem
One of the major problems that coaches such as Mark Sanchez and others have, throughout Rockaway and the city, is obtaining methods of transportation
"We have a van, but we have more than 20 teams and most teams don’t have a chance to reserve the van", Sanchez says. "For players get to destinations such as Long Island City or Bayside (which can take an hour or more) by themselves and to make it before the game starts, is a big problem."
According to PSAL rules, coaches are technically supposed to supervise the students before and after the game. If there is only one coach and players have to take public transportation, there is a greater possibility that a major problem can occur.
"It certainly seems like an injustice", said Beach Channel Athletic Director Harvey Pyser. "We do not get supplied with transportation. The city gives us a Metrocard for the day for students to travel. If there is a soccer match at 2:45 p.m. at August Martin, how do people get there?
The reasons why many coaches are not allowed to drive the vans is due to insurance reasons, and the PSAL has told coaches that they can’t drive students to school. "We have a school van and the PTA has insured the van but it s very expensive to maintain," Pyser said. "It’s a touchy situation."
Pyser, who is also a coach in Long Island, explained the system there. "Long Island pays for a chaperone to go with a team and if something would happen, there would be an adult to take a person to the hospital."
Pyser explained that the feeling of teachers and schools is similar to what the volleyball team has felt. "It’s just a shame."
Coach Mark Sanchez and the school are planning a party to honor the 2002 Queens Division Champions. Five of the seven players are seniors, who will depart the team.
Sanchez remembered one remarkable moment from that crazy day on how the team cared for each other. "The thing that touched me was when I’m in the ambulance with Rose and it’s rainy, dark and I hear someone knocking on the ambulance door. I open the door and it’s pouring. I see my captain Priscilla Head and co-captain LaToya Daniels. They don’ t have an umbrella and they’re looking at me trying to find out what happened. They looked like they were ready to cry. To me that has touched me more than anything else."