Three weeks later, Mary Lysko has not regained her sense of smell or taste.
On Oct. 13, after Cardinal Spellman swept visiting Bishop Stang in a Catholic Central volleyball match, Lysko thought about going out for ice cream. But she was not feeling very well, so she stayed home.
“I usually lose my voice after playing games, but it might be more than just losing my voice so I’m going to lay off,” said Lysko, a senior captain.
Her decision might have saved Spellman’s season. The following morning, she had lost the ability to taste or smell, one of the first signs of a COVID-19 infection. Later that day, she tested positive.
The following afternoon, on Oct. 15, Lysko texted coach Jack Olson with the news. He immediately halted practice and the team started a two-week quarantine. Lysko was one of three positive cases that week at the small Catholic school in Brockton, which shifted to a remote setting.
No other volleyball players or Olson tested positive, and Lysko — whose sister, Kathryn, is a junior on the team — doesn’t know where she was exposed to the virus. But she fought the flu-like symptoms for a week while she stayed in her bedroom and a parent left meals at her door. She’s grateful for how supportive her teammates have been.
“I just felt so bad, and of course [all my teammates] were all so nice about it. I just give them so much credit because it was really hard for all of them,” Lysko said.
Spellman students are back in the building and the Cardinals returned to the court on Oct. 28 with a 3-0 win over Archbishop Williams, with Lysko still feeling slightly winded. Two days later, they hosted Catholic Central leader Bishop Feehan. Both teams were undefeated entering the match, and although Feehan won, 3-2, Olson thought it was one of Spellman’s best games of the year despite running just one practice in a two-week span.
“The kids played surprisingly well. They were focused and I give them credit,” Olson said.
Now 5-1, the Cardinals are in the mix to defend their Catholic Central League title when the league’s postseason tournament begins in two weeks. Defense has been their calling card. Spellman has racked up 238 digs, led by senior libero Ali Whitaker (58 digs), Lysko (41), and junior Elizabeth Hurm (43), who was the Mayflower League Player of the Year in 2019 playing for Sacred Heart. She transferred to Spellman after Sacred Heart closed in May.
“They’re just the types of players that are always there when you need [them] to be. Ali is like the back-row captain and she’s always running it,” Lysko said.
Every Spellman win has been a 3-0 sweep. The offense is balanced. Lysko has a team-leading 32 kills, six ahead of junior middle Meghan Mungovan, but seven players have at least 10.
After the long layoff, Spellman has a condensed schedule. The Cardinals’ win over West Bridgewater on Monday marked the start of an eight-game sprint over 11 days. They’re 2-0 so far, and Lysko contracting COVID-19 may have motivated them to finish the season as well as they started it.
Her teammates don’t blame her for falling ill. They’ve instead rallied around her and are determined to end the season on a high note. That’s a testament to Spellman’s positive attitude while facing adversity.
“It’s so hard because you can’t really blame yourself and you can’t blame someone else because it’s a super dangerous disease,” Lysko said. “I think it shows how mentally tough our team is. I feel like it has motivated me to play harder and enjoy every second.”
▪ The city of Quincy had its own COVID-19 outbreak, and that unfortunately ended the season for the girls’ volleyball team. Athletics have been cancelled until Nov. 16 and learning is also remote until that date. The Raiders will not be able to participate in the Patriot Cup due to the outbreak. North Quincy (4-3) was third in the Patriot Fisher Division when athletics were halted.
“These girls showed up all summer long, masks on … they just wanted to play volleyball, they just wanted to connect. Everybody wanted to come back [at the beginning of the season],” North Quincy coach Caitlin Plaskasovitis said.
“It’s hard when the season ends, period, but to pull the rug right out from under them is so hard.”
Plaskasovitis did not coach in the Raiders’ game on Oct. 26 against Pembroke because her husband tested positive. Junior varsity coach Fabiola Garcon stepped in and coached the Raiders to a 3-0 win, and their final game, a 3-0 loss to Plymouth South two days later.
▪ It’s impressive what coach Rachel Lassey is doing over at Dartmouth. The Indians are now 10-0 after a 3-0 Southeast Conference win over New Bedford on Tuesday and are now 48-5 since the start of the 2018 season, including playoffs.
Matches to Watch
Saturday, Cardinal Spellman at Bishop Fenwick, 4 p.m. — Fenwick (5-2, 5-2 Catholic Central) can gain some ground in the league standings with a win over Spellman, which is tied for second in the league entering Thursday.
Wednesday, Billerica at Haverhill, 6 p.m. — The Merrimack Valley Conference Division I leader (Billerica) faces an undefeated Haverhill team leading MVC Division II.