In Kentucky volleyball, it goes without saying that the Mercy Jaguars stand as one of the most elite program in the state. The defending 2014 state champions motivate themselves with this motto: â€œ1, 2, 3 Mercy Pride Be the Best.â€ Every time these girls go to compete, even the sweat of their brow is consumed with Mercy pride. Head coach, Matthew Thomerson, is in his first season as head coach and says it all starts in practice.
â€œEverything we do in practice is competitive and has a goal in mind. Everything is like a game-like situation, preparing us to be winners. We set an aggressive mindset with them, play by play.â€
Thomerson, who is a graduate of Holy Cross High School in Louisville, has been coaching volleyball for 15 years. During his four years coaching at Holy Cross, he was named Coach of the Year of the sixth region in 2010 and 2011.
Whatâ€™s intriguing about Mercyâ€™s new coach is that he has also been a police officer for 16 years. Perhaps his upholding of the law has filtered into the play of the Mercy Jaguars. With a 5-2 record on the season, Mercy is ensuring that no laws are being broken within its team bond.
Kelly Oâ€™Neil, who is a defensive specialist libero is one of the captains of the team as a junior. In her role, she ensures that the team stays connected and motivated. â€œI just try to do my best to help my team as captain. I know that is a big leadership role. So I do my best to help my team through everything. If we are down, I know that I have to be the one on the court to push the team to strive for the best.â€
Oâ€™Neil, who has gained attention from Arizona, NC State, Marquette and Morehead, says that nothing gets in the way of the girlsâ€™ camaraderie. â€œWe have a really good bond because we come together and work together as a team no matter what. If we make mistakes, we tell each other to shake it off. So it is awesome how we come together.â€
Mercy has come off a season where they not only won the state championship but also had a player in Merideth Jewell who was named 2014 Miss Kentucky Volleyball. Although Jewell has graduated, her leadership and legacy has instilled a far-reaching confidence in supporters.
Coach Thomerson says, â€œAnytime you have a player of that caliber that graduates from your high school, it sets the bar for what other kids want to be. If you mention Merideth Jewellâ€™s name at our camps, kids know who she is and they want to be that. They look up to her as an icon. Some of our girls even look up to that.â€
Discipline is one the major reasons the Mercy volleyball program has been able to maintain its success. The senior captains strive to be exemplary role models for the team and the community. In addition, they must withstand the pressures of leading a group of underclassmen toward the teamâ€™s overall goals. Ashton Meckle, who is positioned as middle blocker and opposite hitter, expressed her role as captain on the team and the duties she performs.
â€œIt is always difficult being a senior. You have to constantly encourage everyone else and make sure they are doing their part. I donâ€™t like to think as a senior that you can tell everyone else what to do, but it is our job to make sure everything goes smoothly and everything goes well.â€
Meckle, who is headed to Georgetown College next year, says the drive of the players who come into the Mercy program is what makes the team so special to her. She argues that, â€œEvery single girl that is picked for a team has a drive like anyone else. When we step on the floor, no one is going to outwork us. Thatâ€™s our main goal â€“ that no one will outwork us. I can look at each person on the court with me and just say theyâ€™ll never give up and neither will I.â€ VT