The Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School Hurricanes volleyball team lost just one game last season — but, that loss came in the FHSAA Class 3A state championship.
The Hurricanes had won 30 consecutive games through the regular and postseason before losing to Doral’s Divine Savior Academy Sharks, in three straight-sets at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers.
The scores were 25-16, 25-16 and 25-22.
Much of the damage was done by Sharks then-junior Fabiana Castro, a Bryant University commit, who led all players with 24 kills.
If the Hurricanes had won, it would’ve marked the school athletic program’s first-ever team state crown.
“You know, everybody has their excuses about what happened, but what actually happened was they were better than we are. That was the bottom line,” longtime Hurricanes volleyball head coach Doug Chinchar said.
“They had one kid we could not stop and that was it,” he said.
As devastating as the Nov. 17 loss was , the coach has used the experience as a learning tool for this season.
He has challenged his team to become tougher mentally and physically, particularly when it comes to facing top-level teams in raucous environments — like the state title game.
“The other team threw the first punch and we didn’t punch back. That was the heartbreaker. I want to punch back,” said Chinchar, now in his 11th year at the school.
“If there’s one thing I worry about is how tough we are. How tough are we going to be when we go into some team’s gym and they’re all over all us,” he said.
To attack that concern, Chinchar has pursued the most challenging regular season slate possible, to gear up his team for another deep postseason run.
That includes road matches this season against Alachua Santa Fe, Clearwater Central Catholic, Carrollwood Day, Sarasota Riverview high schools and others.
“We’re trying to schedule 25 losses. We want to play the best of the best,” the coach said. Veteran players believe the team has grown from last season’s defeat and is on a restored track this year. The Hurricanes presently sit at 9-1, as of Sept. 16.
The team entered the new season more motivated and “wanting to work harder,” senior middle hitter Sarah Perciavalle said.
“I think we have more heart from last season, and more energy during our practices and games,” Perciavalle, of Lutz, said, “so I think we’re better in that sense.”
Last season’s end was “really upsetting,” she said.
“We were expected to win, going in undefeated, so it was definitely a hard loss,” she said.
Junior outside hitter Audrey Koenig said the team has gained more confidence and has learned “definitely to not underestimate a team and not to let big crowds affect you.”
The 6-foot-3 FSU commit and Wesley Chapel resident recalled it took her “at least a week” to get over that last year’s title game defeat.
She recalls being very sad about the loss, noting “everybody was expecting us to win, so like all the hype and momentum built up to it and then it just kind of fell.”
So it may seem like a tall task to top a nearly unblemished 30-1 campaign, but the Hurricanes insist they are even deeper this year.
Nearly all of the players are returning from last year, including four seniors.
They’ve also added a handful of talented freshman — paced by 6-foot-3 Maddie Snider and 6-foot-1 Ali Waldon, the daughter of former University of South Florida men’s basketball standout B.B. Waldon.
Height and offensive firepower figure to be an advantage again this season, as the group boasts three 6-footers and four other players 5-foot-9 or taller.
“We definitely have the intimidation factors,” said Koenig, who leads the team with 95 kills and 20 aces.
Added Perciavalle: “I think we’re definitely more powerful at the net. All of our hitters have definitely gotten stronger, so I think we’re definitely better.”
The team is also out for revenge this time around, in their quest for that elusive state crown.
“It’s kind of like redemption,’ Perciavalle said. “Like, we were so close last year that now we’ve got to finish it up.”
The Hurricanes coach imagines it can done, based on what he’s seen thus far.
“It should be a fun little run here,” Chinchar said. “We have a chance to go the whole way, that’s the most exciting part. Everybody wants to beat us, and we want to beat them.”
“We want the whole thing,” he said.
2019 Bishop McLaughlin Hurricanes volleyball roster
Head coach: Doug Chinchar
- Adrianna Lopez, junior
- Alexandra Postlethwaite, junior
- Ali Waldon, freshman
- Audrey Koenig, junior
- Autumn Martinez-Robinson, freshman
- Cahley Woods, freshman
- Ezzie Thompson, freshman
- Gabriella Koenig, senior
- Kayla David, senior
- Maddie Snider, freshman
- Sarah Perciavalle, senior
- Terah Nejman, senior
- Zina Grechniw, junior
Published September 18, 2019