Young Blue Devils set benchmark for McDonald | News, Sports, Jobs

Corresponding Photo / Robert Hayes The McDonald Blue Devils celebrate after Maria Rasile (1) scored the final point in Tuesday night’s 3-1 District Semifinals win over Dalton.

When McDonald steps onto the court at David Anderson Junior/Senior High School tonight, there’s more than a district title at stake.

There is a legacy to write.

It might come as a surprise to some that it wasn’t until 2019 for the Blue Devils to establish a collegiate volleyball program, but in a short amount of time, McDonald’s has made a splash.

After all, when the name “McDonald” gets printed on your jersey, there’s a certain standard to uphold, a new program or not.

“We definitely got off to a great start, I think time will tell, I couldn’t have asked for or expected a better start,” said Blue Devils coach Mike Klockner. “All credit to the players, they are the ones who put in the work, time and effort and put themselves into what we coach them. I couldn’t be happier with the start so far.”

Amy Harrison ran the program for the first two seasons, but she and Klockner helped push for a program when both had daughters who expressed an interest in the sport. Athletic director Josh Krumpak got the ball rolling, and McDonald started a junior high program in 2018.

Advised by David Terzak of Thunder Volleyball Club, Klockner was one of the founding fathers of the Blue Devils program, serving as an assistant during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Two members of this 2018 eighth grade team are still wearing McDonald’s navy blue and white. Now seniors Maria Rasile and Megan Zajack didn’t play any other sports growing up, but each found something special in the game of volleyball.

“I think just playing with people and just the intensity of the game, those moments are just so much fun, just getting a good kill or an ace,” Zajack said. “It’s really important to be strong together as a team, just getting along with everyone and not having any drama, I think we’re doing really well with that. I think everyone in our team gets along very 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 fall 2020. Rasile and her teammates knew the potential for something special was brewing when the program took a big leap during their junior season, finishing 16-5.

“It’s definitely really cool to be like the team that started the volleyball program at McDonald, to be the team that kind of everyone will remember,” Rasile said. “We’ve definitely come this far from the start, we’ve definitely caught up on a lot of different things, and it’s really cool to see our team grow and think back to where we were in my freshman year and where we are now.

“I think some of the girls come to our games and I think it makes them want to play too. We definitely had a great turnout with our junior high and the program looks really strong going forward.”

This season, McDonald currently has a record of 20-5 and booked his trip to the Division IV finals in the Lisbon District 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 aces. Freshman Gianna Costantino has 236 receptions and junior Lauren Sierra leads by a total of 45 blocks.

Junior Grace Bundy, Megan Klockner and freshman Miley Titus also played important roles during the 2022 campaign, but the team as a whole found a way to just gel.

“A lot of my players play club and that has really helped to catch up with other schools to bridge that gap,” said Mike Klockner, as his team competes in a very strong MVAC.

“It’s not just the ones that play club, a lot of them play multiple sports, which is wonderful because it makes them better competitors, better athletes, so I think that’s all part of it too. It allows them to handle pressure, it makes them better athletes overall.”

Fourth-seeded McDonald will be put to the test tonight in Lisbon against top-seeker and one-loss Wellsville, with the opportunity to compete at the table in regional matches.

Just to be able to compete against some of the best speaks volumes for a recent program that is still very much in the making in some respects.

“We took a really big leap (in 2021) and won a lot more games and that definitely kind of shocked people,” Rasile said. “I don’t think they really expected us to go out and do that.”

“It was really cool to show people that we have this talent and that we were capable of it and now this year going into the district championship people didn’t really expect that from us and it is really cool to show them how good we can be and the talent we have on our team.”

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