By PAUL WAGER
MAYFIELD — When Brynn Hlozansky walked off the volleyball court for the final time as a senior at Johnstown High School, Mayfield coach Eileen Rovito handed her her patch at the state tournament in Glens Falls as part of the tournament committee.
Nine years later, Rovito has handed Hlozansky something far larger – her spot as Mayfield varsity coach.
“I have a picture of Eileen handing me my patch when I was in high school. If you had told me nine years ago that I would be taking over for Eileen Rovito as Mayfield coach, I would have said you were crazy,” Hlozansky said. “I’m so thankful to have this opportunity. I want to build on what Eileen has done here at Mayfield.”
Rovito, who taught at Mayfield for 33 years, stepped down after the Fall II season ended in April, ending a career that included 36 years as part of the Mayfield program.
“I can’t thank Eileen [Rovito] enough,” Hlozansky said. “She taught me so much.”
Hlozansky has coached at Mayfield for the past five seasons – two of those at the modified level and the others as junior varsity coach.
All were spent at the side of Rovito, who won 337 matches, nine league titles and six sectional titles as Mayfield coach. Rovito’s teams finished third in the state in 2015 and 2018 after reaching the state final four.
While taking over for a longtime coach is never an easy task, it’s also one that Rovito faced as well.
Rovito, who was a student teacher at Mayfield in 1985 before being hired full-time in 1986, took over for Donna Richtmyer after she spent 15 years as Mayfield’s junior varsity coach. Richtmyer finished with 434 career wins.
Mayfield, which went 5-9 in the shortened Fall II season, has been one of Section II’s traditional small-school powerhouses, winning 20 league titles since 1983 and 15 sectional titles since 1981.
Taking over the program would be a daunting task for anyone, but Hlozansky has the benefit of using Rovito as a sounding board.
“I think I talked to her just about every day this summer. She’s going to volunteer this year. She’s going to come and go as she’s available,” Hlozansky said. “Eileen is such a great person, she’s so approachable and she’s always been there to answer my questions. She’s been such a great mentor for me and I’m so glad she’s going be helping us this year.”
Still, it was different when Hlozansky stepped on the court for the first practice without Rovito there.
“I had mixed emotions when we started practice this week,” Hlozansky said. “I’m sad that Eileen isn’t here, but I’m excited to get going. It didn’t feel real until I stepped on the court.”
Though Rovito wasn’t there, Hlozansky was joined by 30 girls at the first practice.
“Eileen left me with a great group of girls,” Hlozansky said. “We’ve got 30 girls, which is a great problem to have. We’ve got a nice mix of returning veterans and new players. I’m looking forward to the season. This group is ready to go and working to get better every day.”
Hlozansky, a 2012 Johnstown graduate, was part of a Section II Class B title-winning team that reached the state final four in her senior year at Johnstown. She also helped Herkimer County Community College to a 51-23 record in her two seasons there in 2012 and 2013. Hlozansky was named the Mountain Valley Conference co-Player of the Year in 2013 after helping the Generals to a league title.
After Herkimer, Hlozansky attended SUNY Cortland, though she didn’t play volleyball for the Red Dragons.
She eventually found her way to Mayfield as modified volleyball coach.
“I definitely always wanted to coach,” Hlozansky said. “I’m up for the challenge. I’m excited and ready to tackle whatever comes along the way.”
Hlozansky will be assisted this season by former Mayfield player Bri Eagan, who also played at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
“We’re excited for the season,” Hlozansky said. “It’s been nice to be back to a more normal season. We’re looking forward to it.”
The only thing that won’t be the same is that Rovito won’t be on the sidelines as head coach, though her impact on Mayfield remains.
“Eileen set a tone for the program and helped make the transition go very smoothly so far,” Hlozansky said.
Mayfield is slated to open its season with a non-league home match against Johnstown on Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. before hosting Galway in its Western Athletic Conference opener Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.
“It’s kind of fitting that my first match will be against Johnstown,” Hlozansky said. “Then, we get right into league play against Galway the next day. We played in a summer league at Broadalbin-Perth and Galway was in our pool. They were our first match this summer and they’re going to be our first WAC match this year.”
Both matches will take place in Rovito Gymnasium, which was renamed in a surprise ceremony last spring for Eileen and her husband, Kevin, who served Mayfield as a coach and teacher for 29 years.