ROYALS 25, 25, 25 MONARCHS 21, 16, 14
In the brief history of the McGann-Mercy volleyball program, the team has never made the playoffs. To take it one step further, the Monarchs were never where they stood Thursday afternoon: one win away from the postseason.
It wasn’t a playoff match against Port Jefferson Thursday, but it may as well have been. Both teams entered the regular season finale with identical 5-6 records in League VIII, meaning the winner lived to see another day while the loser saw its season come to an end.
The Monarchs had a chance to make history, but their pursuit of the program’s inaugural postseason trip will have to wait at least one more year. Port Jefferson clinched its berth into the Class C playoffs with a three-game sweep, winning 25-21, 25-16, 25-14.
It took a stellar run in the second half of the season for the Monarchs to put themselves in position to flirt with the playoffs. They won five of their previous seven matches heading into the match against the Royals. Three of those matches went five games and the Monarchs won two of them. “Too many five set matches,” said Mercy coach Jamie Calandro.
Against the Royals, a team the Monarchs (5-9, 5-7 League VIII) defeated at home in four games earlier this season, Mercy fell behind early and Port Jefferson (6-8, 6-6 League VIII) quickly put the Monarchs on their heels in each game.
“I was really hoping that it could go all the way for them,” Calandro said. “Because they really deserved it.”
It wasn’t meant to be for the Monarchs as the Royals asserted themselves from the start, jumping out to a 10-4 lead in Game 1. Calandro said there might have been some jitters to start the match.
“Port Jeff did play well,” he added. “They were covering all the loose balls. They played a lot better than when they played us the first time.”
The Monarchs got a team-high nine kills from Kaylin Hammond, one of six seniors for Mercy. Calandro said Hammond has been a leader on the team since she first joined the varsity as a sophomore.
“Even if it’s 24-15 and we’re about to lose the game and other people begin to hang their heads, she never does,” he said.
Hammond and Mairead Glynn were both captains for Mercy going back to last year. Glynn closed out her career as Mercy volleyball player after playing four years on the varsity. Senior Alexa Klink was a three-year varsity player and every other senior was on the team at least two years.
The group came into the season knowing they had a shot to be much more competitive than Mercy’s teams in the past have been and they were.
“It’s tough because they’ve been on so many one-win teams,” Calandro said. “But they’ve been working together so long. They knew what they had to do and they knew they had it in them. I know we didn’t go to playoffs, but I’m glad that the season has went the way they deserved it to go.”
The Monarchs trailed 17-8 in Game 1 before running off seven straight points to pull within two. Behind senior Anna Crowley on the serve, the Monarchs climbed back into the game and gave themselves a belief that they could beat the Royals. Senior Elizabeth Hartmann had a block and kill during the run. But after one of her hits sailed long, giving a point and serve back to Port Jefferson, the Monarchs never got closer than three points.
Mercy lead briefly by two points in Game 2 at 6-4. It was the Monarchs’ biggest lead all match. In Game 3 the Royals pulled away behind Maggie Comneck on the serve. Port Jefferson rallied for six straight points, including one ace for Comneck as the Royals went ahead 17-6.
While the Monarchs graduate six seniors, Calandro said he’s confident the team can build off what it accomplished this season. Setter Kaylee Navarra will return for her fourth year on varsity next season.
“I don’t plan on this being the only year that we compete,” he said. “It looks like it should be a rebuilding year because of all the seniors I’m losing, but I don’t plan on it being that way.”