At Bishop McGann-Mercy, tennis is not merely a two-month sport played in the early fall. It’s a year-round commitment for many of the players.
“When you show up in the offseason to get better, it shows during the season,” said Mercy coach Mike Clauberg, who has led the Monarchs to a winning record every year since 2005.
Last Friday, the Monarchs put the finishing touches on an undefeated League VIII championship. It’s the first league title since 2010 for Mercy, which can be a bit misleading.
In tennis, teams are divided into conferences based on geography. Each conference has two divisions, with the top teams in the upper league and the rest in the lower league. The Monarchs, in their strongest years as a top-10 team in the county, have typically played in the upper league, which features some stiff competition. This year, the Monarchs found themselves in the lower league, which meant a perfect opportunity to win a league title.
The Monarchs won 5.5-1.5 against Center Moriches last Friday to finish 10-0 in league.
“We had a couple real close matches,” Clauberg said, noting the final scores didn’t necessarily reflect the competitiveness on the court. “We improved tremendously. We have a great offseason program. We do a winter program, summer program. The girls really invest in it, especially the seniors.”
Leading that pack among the seniors has been Jamie Lessard, who’s held down the No. 1 singles spot. Lessard, a winner in Tuesday’s non-league match against Patchogue-Medford, went undefeated in league play and has posted an identical record to the team at 11-1 overall. Her only loss came against the top singles player from The Stony Brook School in non-league, Clauberg said.
Lessard is last in the line of three girls from her family who have all played tennis at Mercy since 2005.
“The Lessards have always been a part of our success,” Clauberg said.
Brooke Lessard graduated in 2010 and Cassidy Lessard graduated in 2013.
“It’s the end of a legacy now,” Clauberg said.
The Monarchs were scheduled to play one more non-league match against Westhampton Thursday before preparing for the individual Division IV tournament and then the team playoffs. The division tournament begins Oct. 10 at William Floyd High School. The first round of the team playoffs begin Oct. 16.
Tuesday’s loss against Patchogue-Medford, a likely top-10 team in the county, gave the Monarchs confidence that they can compete against whichever team they’ll line up against in the playoffs. The Monarchs lost 4.5-2.5 in a match that could have swung either way.
Senior Shannon Kavanagh, a three-year varsity player, and junior Angelika Osiniak have held down the first doubles spot, Clauberg said. The second doubles duo of seniors Alex Waski and Savannah Siejka have lost only one match after an undefeated season last year at third doubles. Senior Katie Brownfiel, a fourth-year varsity player, has helped stretch out the lineup by playing third doubles.
“To have those seniors mixed in every where, it shows the senior leadership that has really been the foundation of this team,” Clauberg said.
Margaret Terry, a first-year varsity player, has played second singles. Clauberg described Terry as a “fighter.”
“To have someone in that two spot that just doesn’t give up is huge,” he said. “She beat some kids the second time around that she didn’t win the first time around that really helped us.”
Photo Credit: McGann-Mercy seniors Jamie Lessard (left) and Shannon Kavanagh have helped the Monarchs to a perfect 10-0 League VIII records. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)