Family Bonds Propel St. Mary’s Volleyball Team

By  //  December 13, 2012

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Undefeated Squad Seeks League Title

BREVARD COUNTY • ROCKLEDGE, FLORIDA – St. Mary’s Catholic School’s volleyball team finished the season undefeated, but that’s not what makes the team stand out the most.

Top-seeded St.Mary’s Catholic School volleyball team is unbeaten and looking to make a run in the Coastal Catholic League playoffs. (Image courtesy St. Mary’s Catholic School)

The team was a family affair with two sets of sisters, a cousin and a lot of energy that comes from a very close-knit family playing a competitive sport.

The girls’ team was the number one seed going into this week’s Coastal Catholic League playoffs. They defeated Cocoa Beach’s Our Saviors School at Ascension Catholic School in Melbourne Monday night then faced Holy Name of Jesus in Indialantic on Wednesday.

The girls will play two games to determine who wins the championship.

Other teams in contention could be Ascension, St. Joseph’s of Palm Bay St. Helen’s of Vero Beach and Our Lady of Lourdes in Melbourne depending on the outcome of final matchups this week.

“The girls are great,” said St. Mary’s head coach Kathy Deane. “It is unique that there is a lot of family here. Of course there’s sibling arguments, but there’s also a lot of support for one another. There’s a closeness that’s contagious. It wrapped up the entire team, not just those tied by family bonds.”

The sisters include eighth-grader Savannah Lee and her seventh-grade sister Maggie Lee and eighth-grader Devyn Mercer and her sixth-grade sister Jayla Mercer. Seventh-grader Mary Ellen Strain is also a cousin to the Lee sisters.

Other players on the winning team include eighth-graders Hannah McClatchey, Kaitlin Ruether, Alexis Fitzpatrick and Collen Clay.

“I loved playing with my family and friends,” said Mary Ellen Strain. “We were hard on each other when needed, but we were also there to support one another.”

Teammate Hannah McClatchey said having the family members was definitively a plus.

“I think that it did make the team stronger,” McClatchey said. “The cousins and the siblings would practice together and help each other with the mistakes made and to become stronger players. Correcting your siblings and cousins is easier than telling your friend or teammate what they did wrong.”

“Five of us have been playing on the same team together for four years and now we are playing for championships.” Kaitlin Ruether, St. Mary’s volleyball player

Kaitlin Ruether agrees. And for her the season has been extra special because of the time spent with her extended family.

“I am very excited. Five of us have been playing on the same team together for four years, and now we are playing for Championships,” she said. “This will be the last time we will all get to play together before going our separate ways next year. Coach Kathy and (assistant) coach Mark Ruether have done a really great job preparing us for the final four.”

Deane, who a mother of two at St. Mary’s, has been coaching volleyball, teams at St. Mary’s for the past four years.

She credits much of her philosophy about competitive sports to her dad, former Indian River State College basketball coach Michael Leatherwood. He had the most wins in Florida community college basketball history retiring with 700 wins in 2009. Leatherwood is a 12-time conference Coach of the Year and a National Junior College Association Hall of Fame inductee.

“I guess you can say competitive sports runs in the family,” Deane said. “For me, it’s really exciting to have gotten this far. To see the girls come together and perform at this level. It’s amazing how talented they are. I’m so proud of them.”

St. Mary’s Catholic School opened its doors in 1958 in the heart of Rockledge. Since then, the faculty and staff have been providing a Christ-centered environment where children learn to be responsible, independent and enthusiastic life-long learners.

The fully accredited school serves children in prek-3 through eighth grade. It delivers the Orlando Dioceses curriculum to its students, which is rich in academics, the arts, music, athletics and provides an emphasis on the sciences as well as foreign languages starting in kindergarten.

The small size of the school provides a nurturing family environment that is steeped in the spirit of Mercy taught by the Catholic Church. St. Mary’s graduates not only enter the best high schools in the county, they become astute critical thinkers who will succeed in the 21st century and beyond.

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