Ed McGarr II, the new coach of the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys volleyball team, was looking ahead to his team’s season-opening match, which was, fittingly, at Connetquot on Tuesday.
To say that McGarr, 23, has ties to Connetquot would not be nearly enough. He played for Connetquot’s first middle school, junior varsity and varsity teams. Now, in his first match as Shoreham’s coach, he was to face his former coach, Jeff Tacke, whose Connetquot team is only five years old.
“I always still wear [Connetquot] red and black because those are my favorite colors,” McGarr said. “To go in there with a white and blue shirt, it’s going to be a surreal feeling.”
On top of that, McGarr still lives in Connetquot, which made for some crazy travel plans that day: a 35-minute drive to Shoreham, then a return trip to Connetquot on the team bus, then trekking back to Shoreham with the team, and then the drive back home to Connetquot.
But McGarr expected the two-plus hours of driving to be well worth it. He believed it could be a statement match for the Wildcats, who are coming off a three-win season.
“It’s really exciting, and I think it’s an opportunity to show the league who we are,” he said. “I really think that it’s our time to shine.”
The Wildcats, who last made the playoffs in 2009, have a rarity: a 6-foot-7 senior middle blocker in Jake Blandi. “It helps,” said McGarr. The coach added: “He wants to be a leader. With his size, we’re going to need him for blocks.”
Blandi is one of the returning starters along with senior outside hitter Justin Joseph, junior setter Sean King and junior defensive specialist Nick Maritato.
Liam Lane, a junior middle blocker, was called up to the varsity team near the end of the season. Kelvin Ma is another middle blocker. Peter Mazzone is an outside hitter and Chris Rottler is a right-side hitter. Rahul Persad can hit from both sides, and Mike Keller is a defensive specialist.
“I think we will do better than people expect,” McGarr said. “I’m not worried about championships; I’m worried about the program growing.”
McGarr’s return to Connetquot didn’t turn out the way he would have liked. The Wildcats lost in three games.
McGarr spent the last three years as an intern coach for both the Dowling College and Canisius College women’s volleyball teams and as a first assistant coach for the D’Youville College men’s volleyball team in Buffalo. He soon discovered that coaching is a bit different than playing. “It’s so much more stressful,” he said.
McGarr described himself as a “volley geek. That’s what my friends call me. I’ve watched more volleyball games than you’ve watched football or baseball games in your life. When I found out I could make money off it, a living, being in a gym watching volleyball, what better job?”