What may be the longest road trip in Suffolk County high school sports continues.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy girls volleyball team is a team without a home. Because of work being done in Mercy’s gym, the Monarchs haven’t been able to use it at all for practices or matches this season.
Mercy has hit the road for all its matches and Jeff Trelewicz has had to do some creative coaching and improvising by holding most practices in the school parking lot.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “I was hoping it would just be temporary, but once [the work] went underway and was delayed more and delayed more, it’s what can you do? I really don’t have a say and complaining is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere. We can’t go in and do the lights ourselves.
“We’ve been blessed enough where Riverhead has given us a day here and there. We went to the YMCA in Patchogue one time, two times, and that’s it. Everything else has been in the parking lot.”
Mercy is fortunate the weather has been good, for the most part. When it rains, the Monarchs work on passing in the hallways or head to the school’s workout room.
“We’ve been doing pretty well for a team without a gym,” setter Gabby Jean said. She added, “Practicing in the parking lot really isn’t ideal, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Practicing in a parking lot has its limitations.
“We can only do so much,” Trelewicz said. “You can only really do passing. You can’t do serving. You can’t do hitting.”
That is a major drawback, and yet Mercy (3-4 overall and in Suffolk County League VII) is somehow still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Monarchs need to win two of their three remaining matches against Shelter Island, Port Jefferson and Pierson/Bridgehampton to clinch a postseason berth.
Homeless Mercy moved a step closer to the playoffs Tuesday by winning a “home” match, beating Greenport/Southold, 25-15, 25-10, 25-23, for the second time this season at Greenport High School.
“The communication was pretty good,” Mercy outside hitter Chiara DePaola said. “We were moving a lot, hustling. The hits were pretty good, the setting was really good and the serving was consistent.”
Jean had 12 assists and went 17-for-21 serving with six aces. Mary Grace Hartmann put up five kills, two aces, two blocks and a dink.
While Mercy doesn’t have a gym at the moment, Greenport (0-8, 0-8) doesn’t have a win. The inexperienced Porters have taken only two of the 24 sets they have played, but they threatened in the third set, which was tightly contested the whole way through. After Greenport tied the score at 23-23, a dink by DePaola and an ace by Maddie Knight ended it.
“It feels like a win because we all tried hard enough to compete,” said Greenport outside hitter Annette Newman, who played her first match of the season after dealing with tendinitis in her knees.
Asked if he woke up thinking this was going to be the day his team gained its first win, Greenport coach Mike Gunther said, “I wake up every morning thinking today’s the day.”
Greenport defensive specialist Andria Palencia senses the Porters are close to a breakthrough. “We’re like right there,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mercy has its own challenge.
Is there any word on when Mercy’s gym might become available again?
“I’m not asking,” Trelewicz said. “I don’t want to bother anybody because obviously they know what’s going on and they know I’m going to be the first person they’re going to tell. So I have to just be patient.”
Trelewicz said the lack of gym time has affected Mercy’s game. “We would have been such a contender,” he said. “The talent that’s there can’t unleash itself to its potential because we can’t train as a team.”
Jean understands the situation. “You got to work with what you have,” she said. “It would be nice to have a home game, though.”
Photo caption: Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Trelewicz providing instructions to his players during their “home” match at Greenport High School. (Credit: Bob Liepa)