By Dan McDonald
For Hometown News
ROCKLEDGE -- Hard work, determination and serious skill played a factor this year, as the St. Mary's Catholic School girls' volleyball team went undefeated during its regular season, taking a perfect 8-0 record into this week's Orlando Diocese's Coastal Catholic League Championship playoffs.
The team opened the playoffs Dec. 10 with a 25-19 and 25-17 victory over Our Saviour's School in Cocoa Beach, making St. Mary's a to be watched for the upcoming matches.
"I'm very proud of our girls for the effort they made and the work they put into this season," said head coach Kathy Deane. "It's a real commitment for the girls and their parents. The players never gave up and were able to win all of our regular season games. It's really a great achievement for the girls."
St. Mary's, a school of approximately 300 students, serves students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
The Rockledge school does not have a gym on its campus, so the volleyball team practices at Kiwanis Park in Merritt Island, which is where all of the team's home games are played, as well.
The girl's undefeated A-team is made up of Hannah McClatchey, Jayla Mercer, Devyn Mercer, Maggie Lee, Kaitlin Ruether, Savannah Lee, Alexis Fitzpatrick, Mary Ellen Strain and Colleen Clay.
For Coach Deane, the unblemished record is her best in her four-year stint as St. Mary's coach, a volunteer position she handles when not at her regular job, as a supervisor at the post office.
She admits she has no formal coaching training, but said she learned some tricks watching her father, legendary coach Mike Leatherwood.
Mr. Leatherwood recently retired after 37 years of coaching the men's basketball team at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, where he went 703-424 for his career and owns the record for most wins in Florida junior college history.
"I guess watching my father all of those years paid off this year," Coach Deane said. "I learned that when you have good players, good things happen, and this year, we had a great bunch of girls."
Coach Deane said she also has to give credit to the team's assistant coach Mark Ruether, as well as the other team parents, who contributed their time and energy to this year's program.
"We've had a great year, and now we're looking forward to success in the tournament," she said.
The other schools that competed in the Coastal Catholic League Championship are St. Teresa Catholic School in Titusville; Our Saviour's School in Cocoa Beach; St. Joseph Catholic School in Palm Bay; St. Helen Catholic School in Vero Beach; Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School in Indialantic; Divine Mercy Catholic Academy in Merritt Island; Ascension Catholic School in Melbourne; and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Melbourne.
As of press time, the final results of the Coastal Catholic League Championship had not been announced.