CLINTON — It was a summer of fun for the St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish co-ed volleyball team.
After finishing the regular season with a 6-2 record in the Recreational Division of the Worcester Diocese Catholic Youth Council (CYC) league, St. John’s advanced all the way to the semifinals in the eight-team playoff tournament.
In the first round of the single elimination tournament, St. John’s, the second seed, took a 2-0 decision from the seventh seed, Our Lady of the Lake, at St. Christopher’s in Worcester, one of the four league sites.
In the semifinals, St. John’s took on number three seed Blessed Sacrament, in a real barnburner of a match, according to the team’s coach, Matt Traceski, who is also the parish’s Director of Faith Formation.
“We won the first set, and then lost the second,” Traceski said. “We were neck and neck in the third (set) and then lost 15-13.”
“It was a real exciting match,” they said. “Blessed Sacrament went on to win the whole tournament, beating the top seed, Mary, Queen of the Rosary.”
“They (Mary, Queen of the Rosary) are in Spencer, and they went undefeated during the regular season,” Traceski mentioned.
About the league
In addition to St. Christopher’s, the other league sites were Clinton’s St. John’s, Our Lady of the Lake in Leominster, and St. Joseph’s in Charlton.
The league was divided into the recreational and competitive divisions. The league started in mid-June and finished with the one-day tournament in early August. It is open to middle school and high school aged boys and girls.
“The league has been around for a long time, and I’d say at least 20 years,” league Coordinator PJ Bleau said. “Everything went very smoothly this year. The teams and players are committed and passionate about the league, and that’s exactly what I wanted to see. Ultimately, we are doing it for them.”
“Typically, the competitive division sees a higher level of play, and the rules are a bit more strict,” he said. “This year we had eight teams in each division, and we have officials for every match in both divisions.”
“Our one-day tournament was a huge success,” Bleau said. “We had food, and speakers, and 26 matches on one day. It was great, and the bottom line is the kids have fun, and feel welcome, and want to come back.”
The team’s biggest fan
The impetus for St. John’s involvement in the league came from Rev. James Mazzone, the church’s pastor. According to Traceski, Mazzone was the team’s biggest supporter.
“Father Mazzone got things started last summer,” Traceski said. “They put in the bulletin that we were looking to form a Parish team for the Worcester Diocesan league. The Parish had a CYC in the past and he wanted to bring it back.”
“We had enough for a team in the league last year, but interest really exploded this year,” he said. “We had over 20 kids come out this year, and we are hoping the interest continues, so we could have a team in both divisions next year.”
“Community and faith are very important to us,” Traceski said. “Our whole team consists of parishioners, and it gives them a chance to spend time together in a church environment.”
Traceski noted the hard work, commitment, dedication and skill development of his team over the summer season. The team practiced once a week in preparation for the weekend matches.
“I was particularly proud of our team, because of how much they improved over the course of the summer,” Traceski said. “They really got good at teamwork and communication.”
“What I loved about this league is our kids got to see young people from all over the diocese,” he said. “They got to meet kids from other parishes, and there was just great camaraderie.”
“All the kids from all the teams, win or lose, cheered each other on,” Traceski added.
Traceski was pleased with the improvement of all members of the team, but he pointed out one team member, who was especially adept at serving.
“Bernadette Beirne delivered 19 serves in a row for points against Our Lady of the Lake,” Traceski said. “She almost won the entire game singlehandedly.”
“We are looking forward to next year, and can’t wait to get started,” he said.