After Mercy’s 3-0 victory over North Haven on Oct. 16, Tigers coach Sarah Kelley wanted her players to get familiar with the Indians’ gym, which will host this season’s Southern Connecticut Conference final on Nov. 1.
“I told them, ‘Take a good look around, feel comfortable in this gym, because we’re going to be here on Nov. 1 for the final,’” Kelley said.
The SCC tournament begins Saturday and, if Kelley’s prediction is correct, it will end a long string of disappointing SCC tournament finishes for Mercy. The 14-2 Quinnipiac Division champion has never won the tournament title and is 2-5 in the semifinal round.
Last season, Mercy seemed poised to reach the conference final, but a lackluster performance in a 3-1 semifinal defeat to Amity dashed those hopes. Kelley said her team has not forgotten about that loss.
“That game we just didn’t play up to our potential,” Kelley said. “It was kind of heartbreaking. It’s one thing to lose when you give your all, but when you just don’t play well and you succumb to the jitters, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
Mercy has been hard at work this season to get rid of those bad memories and replace them with some good ones. The Tigers have been successful in doing so, currently riding their second six-game winning steak of the season. Mercy ran through the division with a 6-0 record.
The Tigers have been dominant with seven sweeps this season, but they have also been able to win the close ones. Mercy has two five-set wins — first in the season opener against Sheehan on Sept. 11 and then a week later over Hammonasset Division champ Foran.
However, 18-0 Housatonic Division champion Cheshire appears to be the favorite heading into the tournament. The Rams were declared co-champs last season with Amity after inclement weather canceled the SCC final. Mercy’s only two blemishes this season have come at the hands of Cheshire, both 3-0 sweeps. Despite the losses, Kelley said her Tigers still have a good shot to win the conference.
“I think we can compete with Cheshire,” she said. “I think we can compete with any team and hopefully win.”
Kelley is confident contributors like Morgan Cahill, Mackenzie Dugan, Grace Brodeur, Abigail Nagy and much-improved setter Jessica Hoops will be consistent throughout the tournament and finally get Mercy over the hump.
“We’ve come a long way and we play as a team now,” Kelley said. “We trust each other.”
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Knowledge is power: Grace Brodeur of Mercy was named a SportsCenter of Connecticut/Southern Connecticut Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Month for September. Honorees must be a varsity letterwinner and have a 3.0/B average while demonstrating leadership qualities. The Tigers have performed well, too, winning the SCC Quinnipiac Division title with a 6-0 division record.
Clutch at the right time: Foran dropped its first two five-set matches this season, losing to Mercy and rival Law. However, the Lions righted the ship, shook off the crunch-time jitters and picked up back-to-back five-set triumphs over Guilford and Branford. In the Branford victory, Danielle Kemp had 26 digs and Jenna Zacarelli had 19.
No, you dig this!: In Lyman Hall’s 3-2 victory over Sheehan on Friday, the Trojans’ Caly Montie tallied 50 digs.
Ram tough: Cheshire topped rival Amity again, this time 3-0 on Friday. The first time the Rams stopped the Spartans was by a 3-1 final. Cheshire was led by Jillian Haberli’s 10 kills, Sarah Rodgers’ 24 assists and Eva Whalen’s eight kills, four blocks and three aces. The Rams clinched the SCC Housatonic Division.