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'FORDS WORK HARD, PLAY HARDER IN NYC

Last fall, fate struck when two Haverford alums ran into each other on a New York City volleyball court one night after work. We talked with Julieanne Herskowitz ’06 about the team and life after Haverford both on and off the court.

How did you and the other Fords find each other? Why form a team?

Ryan Sajac and I ran into each other at a volleyball game in the city. I was playing when he came into the gym to start warming up for his game. He literally shouted out my name mid-point when he saw me on the court. He and I hadn't seen each other since graduation so we were both ecstatic to run into each other and see that we were both keeping up with the sport! We both played volleyball together at the Ford, as I was a member of the women's volleyball team my freshman and sophomore years while Ryan was our team's assistant. Ryan was also a member of the men's volleyball team all four years as well as co-captain his final two years. Soon after the run-in Ryan wrote to me, Mike Morgan, Evan Le Flor and Jeremy Bass about the possibility of forming our own team in the competitive adult volleyball league. We were all enthused about the idea of playing together again and quickly formed the team with some outside friends to fill up the remaining roster spots.

How often do you practice? How often do you play?

Unfortunately, with our busy schedules and lack of practice space, we don't really have the opportunity to practice much. However we have night games, generally at 7 or 8 p.m., once a week at various high school and college gyms throughout Manhattan. The games are best out of three with each game counting toward your season record and therefore a potential playoff run. We play in a co-ed league called the New York Urban Professional League, and we are in the fourth highest division of about 30 divisions. We finished our last season about three months ago, where we had the division's best season record and went to the finals of the playoffs only to lose in a long three game battle to the evenly matched second-place team. Also we tried to reference Haverford in our team name, as five of the eight team members are Haverford alums, and so our team name is the Flying Black Squirrels!

There seems to be something uniquely "Haverfordian" about finding each other, deciding to stay in touch and playing together. They say that you'll find a Ford wherever you go. How important to you is it to stay in touch with your former classmates and what parts of your Haverford experience helped shape that?

As cheesy as it sounds, I think that it might have been in the stars that Ryan and I ran into each other that evening last fall, as I was only at the gym that night because I had volunteered to sub for an old team that just happened to be playing at the same gym location as Ryan's team right after us. However I believe the bonds that we made during our college years (I lived a floor above Ryan in Barclay our freshman year, and we have all known each other since early freshman year) both playing together, taking classes together, and just socializing together really pushed us to go through with it and form this team. It has really been a joy to play with the guys this past season and I think we all relish our weekly date at the volleyball court with each other. Haverford was an incredibly unique environment in that it was such a tight-knit and welcoming community, and New York in comparison can definitely feel lonely and isolating at times, despite the millions of people who call New York City their home. Therefore, I think it was only natural that we all migrated back together again, despite leading very different lives in the city - (i.e. living in different neighborhoods, having very different jobs and therefore very different schedules).

How about life off the court?

I am working as a historian and planner at one of the leading environmental consulting firms in the city. We are responsible for putting out major environmental impact statements for such projects as the new Yankee Stadium, new Mets stadium and the Fulton Transit Center at Ground Zero. Evan is working as an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank. Ryan is working for Teach for America and is teaching high school math at an upper school in the Bronx. Mike Morgan is a NYC Teaching Fellow and teaches middle school math and coaches volleyball at a middle school in the Bronx. And Jeremy Bass is a substitute teacher at the Bronx HS of Science (his former alma mater) as well as the women's basketball and men's volleyball coach there.

What parts of your Haverford experience have you taken with you and what do you feel are the most important lessons you've been able to apply to your life?

Although I would like to think that this was a value I already appreciated before coming to Haverford, I believe it was something that was further ingrained in me throughout my career there, and that is the importance of respecting and listening to others. Haverford was truly an egalitarian community where everyone's voice was heard and point of view respected, and I think this is something that I really try to imbue throughout my life and especially in the work environment where it is so important to listen to everyone and treat each other as equals — although I am quite fortunate to work at a company where there is not a standard hierarchy in place and each employee is respected and valued as an important member of the company! And, on a lighter note, on the volleyball court I think we would make Haverford proud as we have definitely continued to hold ourselves to the integrity and honesty we so prided ourselves on at Haverford, for example calling ourselves in the net when the referee might have missed the call and therefore maintaining a level of sportsmanship in every game we play.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We encourage other Haverford alums in NYC who are interested in playing volleyball or coming out to watch us play and cheer us on to contact either myself or the other co-captain Ryan Sajac, rsajac@gmail.com.

— Kira Loretto '09

Founders Green on a warm spring day.

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