When McDonald takes the court tonight at David Anderson Junior High/High School, there’s more than just a district title on the line.
There is a legacy to be written.
Some may be surprised that it took until 2019 for the Blue Devils to qualify for the varsity volleyball program, but in a short period of time, McDonald has made a big splash.
After all, when the name “McDonald’s” is printed across your jersey, there is a certain level of maintenance, new program, or not.
“We’ve definitely gotten off to a good start, I guess time will tell, I couldn’t have asked for or expected a better start,” Blue Devils coach Mike Klockner said. they are the ones who put in the work, the time and the effort, and buy into what we are coaching them in. I couldn’t be happier with this start so far. ”
Amy Harrison directed the program for the first two seasons, but she and Klockner helped push for a program when both had daughters who expressed interest in playing the sport. Athletic director Josh Krumpak started getting the ball, and McDonald started a junior high program in 2018.
Taking advice from David Terzak at the Thunder Volleyball Club, Klockner was one of the founding fathers of the Blue Devils program, working as an assistant during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Two members of that 2018 eighth grade team are still donning McDonald’s navy and white. Now seniors, Maria Rasile and Megan Zajack didn’t participate in other sports growing up, but each found something special within the game of volleyball.
“I think just playing with people, and just the intensity of the game, those moments are so much fun, just getting a good kill or getting an ace,” Zajack said. . “It’s really important to be strong as a team together, just get on with everyone and not have drama, I think we’re doing really well with that. I think everyone in our team gets along really well, and we have a lot of fun together.”
It wasn’t easy at first.
The Blue Devils went 8-15 in 2019 and followed that up with a 12-12 season in the fall of 2020. Rasile and his teammates knew there was potential for something special brewing when the program took a big leap during her junior season, finishing 16-5.
“It’s definitely really cool to be the team that started the volleyball program at McDonald, to be the team that everybody will remember in a way,” Rasile said. “We’re definitely has come so far since the beginning, we’ve definitely built a lot of different things, and it’s really cool to watch our team grow and think back to where we were. I have a new year against where we are now.
“I think some of the girls come to our games and I think it makes them want to play as well, we’ve definitely had a lot of turnout with the senior – our youngest level and the future of the program looks very strong.”
This season, McDonald currently has a record of 20-5 and booked their trip to the Division IV, Lisbon District finals after a 3-1 win over Dalton on Tuesday. Rasile currently leads the team with 324 kills this season, along with 347 digs, 254 assists, and 50 serving aces. Freshman Gianna Costantino has 236 receptions, and junior Lauren Sierra leads with 45 total blocks.
Junior Grace Bundy, Megan Klockner, and freshman Miley Titus have also played an important role in the 2022 campaign, but the team as a whole has found a way to just gel.
“A lot of my players play club, and that has helped a lot to get up to other schools, to close that gap,” said Mike Klockner, as his team competed in the MVAC very strong.
“It’s not just the ones who play club, a lot of them play multiple sports which is fantastic because it makes them better competitors, better athletes, so I think all that comes into it too. It makes them handle stress, it just makes them a complete athlete.”
McDonald, seeded 4th, will test their mettle against top-seeded and one-loss Wellsville in Lisbon tonight, with a chance to compete in regional play on the table.
Just being able to fight against some of the best already speaks volumes for a younger program that is very much still being built in some ways.
“We took a big leap (in 2021) and won a lot more games, and that definitely surprised people,” Rasile said. “I don’t think they really expected us to go – out and do that.”
“It was really good to show people that we had that talent and that we were able to do that, and now this year, going into the district tournament, I I think people didn’t expect that from us, and it’s really good to show it. for them to be as good as we can be and the talent we have on our team.”