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  • Matt Ondesko

From the court to the pitch

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos by Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

If 2020 has taught us one thing - it’s you have to adapt to new situations.

What was once the norm is no longer that, things could change at the drop of a hat - and you must be ready to change with it.

This holds true to sports as well.

This fall sports year saw sports like football and volleyball get postponed. For those student-athletes who play those sports they needed to find something to do with their time. Some just kept practicing with their teams in hopes of getting the clearance to play - while others tried their hand at new sports.

Cardinal O’Hara High School’s Meghan Male is one of those athletes who was looking for something to do during the fall semester. A standout out on the volleyball team, Male was an athlete without a home.

She decided to trade in the court for the pitch and never looked out of place as she helped O’Hara to the Monsignor Martin Class B championship with a 1-0 win over Mount Mercy Academy.

“The change from volleyball to soccer was different, but I liked it. Soccer is more of a fast tempo game and I liked that. I liked that in soccer I never knew what to expect since I wasn’t to familiar with the game, and that at every game, I learned something new,” stated Male. “It was definitely weird practicing for soccer and not volleyball. I was waiting for someone to spike the ball so I could break in my new knee pads, but it never happened, lol. I was just thankful I was able to play a sport. I’ve played sports my whole life, and to not be able to play one would have been devastating.”

Male just didn’t play a sport in the fall, but she excelled at it. There were zero expectations for the senior when she stepped on the pitch for the first time. In fact, Male would have been happy just being on the bench for a team that was coming into the season with high expectations.

But, instead of riding the bench, Mahle was thrown into the starting lineup as a left back. Male never looked out of place - and you would have thought she was playing on the varsity for the past four years.

She credits her parents for pushing her to get outside of her comfort zone of playing volleyball and trying something new.

“I’m honestly so surprised with myself. I thought I would be riding the bench due to the fact that I haven’t played since eighth grade. Then Steph said I would be starting as left back,” stated Male. “I was shocked to say the least. I have to give the credit to my parents for that. They always have pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and they were right, it paid off. Im proud that I was able to adapt to a new sport. As for being a key player, as me being the setter, communication is the only way anything gets done. Everyone who knows me, knows i’m loud. I think that helped me into helping our team this year.”

Being a key contributor, and captain, on the volleyball sure helps. She is used to leading. Even though this wasn’t “Her Team” it still felt like that. Being a setter, Male is used to be loud and vocal. Two traits that fit in well when it comes to playing defense.

To be a solid defender, you need to be able to communicate on the pitch with each other. While Male wasn’t a central defender - and controlling the entire defense, she still needed to make sure everyone was in place.

That’s where her leadership qualities come in.

“Communication is key not only to defenders but to everyone on the field. Having communication can save you from losing a game and not having communication can make you lose a game,” stated Male. “Marissa and Emily were always good at getting the communication started for us and I just followed suit. Syd was also a major component in our communication as a team, without her, I’m not sure we would have much communication.”

What made the transition easier for Mahle was the fact she was thrown on the defensive side of the field. Not that playing defense is easy at all, but it helped with making the transition easier.

Male didn’t have to worry about the added pressure of expectations of playing the midfield or attacking positions. She just needed to focus on stooping the other team’s best players from scoring - and help O’Hara reach their goals of another title.

“Being a defender has been one of the greatest spots I have ever played. I’ve always been known to be aggressive and that’s what defenders have to be. You have to go out there with the mentality that ever ball is yours. You can’t be afraid or you’ll never make it,” stated Male. “ To play for O’Hara is always something I’ll be thankful for. I came to O’Hara my sophomore year because my previous high school, Niagara Catholic closed, and choosing O’Hara was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We truly are a family. When you go to our games pre-covid-19, you would see not only our parents but most of our teachers and always Monsignor McCarthy. To play for O’Hara fills me with pride. It’s something I can always look back on and be proud about.”

Now that the season is over, Male has turned her attention to the other sports that she plays. Volleyball is still expected to be played in March and softball has been pushed back to mid-April - which actually isn;t a bad thing, considering the Western New York spring weather.

Male is preparing like there will be a volleyball season. As the pandemic has tightened its grip on Western New York, students are still being allowed to enter school. The Christmas and New Year’s holiday will have a lot of say on what happens next with sports and WNY.

“Now that the season is over, I’m hoping volleyball and softball can happen in the spring. I’ve played volleyball for as long as I can remember and I would be crushed if it couldn’t happen. But after I graduate from O’Hara, I plan on going to Niagara University and major in Nursing,” stated Male. “I’m honestly so excited. I’ve been waiting for volleyball to start since our last game. Syd, Alyssa, and I, being the captains are hopeful for a good season, and are ready to work. I just hope we can play.”

It has been a roller coaster year for people all year. The world has been turned upside down in ways that no one could ever imagine. With a vaccine finally on its way, things are starting to look up. Everyone just has to battle through the winter months before the light at the end of the tunnel can finally shine through.

Through it all, Mahle still thankful for everything that she has been given. While there has been some bumps in the road, namely 2020, Mahle can look back on her time fondly.

“Some things I am proud of is that I was able to switch sports so easily and gel with the team. I mean it obviously took some work on and off the field, but you always have to be willing to work,” stated Male. “I’m proud I was able to play softball for the first time ever my sophomore year and be in the starting line up and win the coach’s award. I’m also proud that I was the captain of the varsity volleyball team.”


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