Sayville Volleyball Honors the Life and Legacy of Madison Mergl
Sayville Volleyball Honors Madison Mergl's Legacy and Retires Jersey Number 1
“This moment is a dedication to a very special young woman, our Number 1, Madison Mergl,” said Volleyball Coach Deb Urso during the tribute to the stellar athlete and former Sayville graduate (Class of 2019) who tragically died in a car accident on March 13, 2020. “She touched the lives of so many…For those of you that don’t know Maddy, I am hoping to give you just a glimpse of who she was, and how much she has done for so many.”
Although Section XI’s pandemic attendance restrictions prohibited a gym filled with spectators, Coach Urso’s words were heard far and wide virtually by hundreds of people streaming from all over the country.
“Maddy had been around our volleyball program since she was a very little girl watching her older sister, Kayla, play the game. She played in the program for six years, five of which she played on Varsity….Maddy graduated Sayville High School in 2019. She was an incredible athlete who could have played any sport she chose, but her passion was volleyball and lacrosse. After graduating Sayville High School she chose to play College Lacrosse at the University of Mount Olive, in North Carolina.”
The entire Sayville Volleyball team along with Coach Jim McLoughlin and members of Maddy’s family (her parents Joanie and Dave, her brother and sister Lucas and Kayla, and her grandparents Joan and Frank Mergl), Coach Sznitken, and his four Senior Lacrosse Captains stood in silence on the court, as Coach Urso continued her speech.
“Maddy was a setter, in my opinion, one of the hardest positions on the court. She was the middle man, the player responsible to right a bad pass and put up a great set that made her hitters/team successful. Knowing Maddy, there was no better position for her to play (although over her career she played them all). Her position on the court was parallel to the position she played as our Captain. She lived her life like a setter. She would help make people’s wrong a right, with a challenge, a smile, a joke, or even just a Maddy expression. She helped them right their wrong by inspiring them to work hard along with her. Each person she touched she would make them determined to be better. She would help make you see what you were capable of. Many coaches we played against reached out to me and said she was a coach's dream, she was like family, she always brought her energy to every match. I can still see her on the court after dumping the ball to four or setting up a hitter for an amazing kill, rocking her hands in a swaying, cheering ‘I got you motion.’ You would maybe get a wink, but definitely a proud look as she looked over her shoulder at you. I love that girl.”
Coach Urso struggled to finish the moving testimonial. “Maddy embodied everything a coach could ever want in an athlete. She has changed the face of Sayville Volleyball. Many of these girls are here on this court because of her. Many of these girls here and watching at home were her teammates, and even her competitors and her friends.”
During the 2019 Annual Athletic Awards Ceremony, Madison Mergl received The Marinus Buyes Award, the highest honor given to the most outstanding athlete of the senior class (male or female).
“I am honored,” Coach Urso announced, “to say Sayville High School has created an award, The Madison Mergl My Captain Award, given to an outstanding female athlete who displays all the qualities Madison possessed. Her family is also establishing a My Captain Scholarship in her name. Through the strength of her family, Maddy’s memory reaches beyond the Sayville community as her parents Dave and Joanie are helping to establish a safe-student outlet rideshare program at the University of Mount Olive.”
Concluding the event, Coach Urso pushed through the tears. “We along with the Sayville School District would like to add one more honor by retiring her volleyball number, the Number 1. Her jersey will be displayed in this gym so every time people enter, they can look up and remember her beauty, her kindness, her passion, her humor, her determination, her strength and her grit. Along with her jersey being displayed here in the High School many athletes know Lois Malenczak, at Long Island Sports and Rehab. Maddy spent countless hours getting PT for her bruises in that cold tub. Lois’ kind heart has no boundaries and she will also be displaying her jersey so all the athletes that enter her place will be inspired by Maddy’s strength and courage. Lois, from my heart and the Sayville community, thank you for your generosity and for honoring her.
“We are all blessed to know Maddy and now so will everyone else. In years to come, young girls and boys who may not have had the honor of knowing her or playing with her can see this and be inspired. Her legacy will live on in all of us. No one will ever wear this number again. No matter where I go she will forever be our number one, forever our Captain.”
While presenting the family with the jersey, Coach Urso finished with trembly voice, “At this time it is with all our love that we would like to present her framed jersey to the Mergl family: Joanie, Dave, Kayla, Lucas, Joan and Frank. Always remember Maddy with a smile and a laughter in your heart …..we all know that is the way Maddy would want to be remembered.”
Held on Monday, March 8th, International Women's Day, the moving tribute to Madison Mergl's legacy was quite emotional. Many eyes welled with tears among those present, but the reminder that this was a celebration of a life was the necessary step to bring closure, offset the sorrow, and begin the healing process for the Sayville community after reeling from such a tragic loss.
A replica of Maddy's jersey was cut out by Mr. McLoughlin, painted by Mrs. Urso (with some help from Mr. Verschure and Ms. Berotti), and hung up by the custodial staff on the Sayville High School gymnasium wall.
Photos courtesy of Suffolk Sports Media