There are three constants for Shannon Appel whenever she sets foot on a volleyball court — the ball, a net and her mother, Maryann. Since Appel’s father Eddie died six years ago, Maryann has not missed a single match.
But last summer at the Empire State Games, the Midwood middle hitter was preparing to compete without her mom present. The event was in Buffalo and Maryann would have to take the 10-hour drive upstate by herself, get time off from work and find a hotel room.
“I would’ve had to miss her play,” Maryann said. “I don’t like that.”
So without her daughter knowing, she made the long trek and arrived just after warm-ups for the New York City team’s second match of the day. Maryann called out to Appel and she cried out: “Mom !”
“She came running over to me,” Maryann said. “She was up in arms. That made me so happy.”
This month, the two celebrated a special Mother’s Day. Appel, the Wingate Award winner for the best senior in the PSAL in a respective sport, committed to play women’s volleyball at Molloy College two weeks ago, ending a long and stressful recruiting process.
“My mom is amazing,” Appel said. “She’s the best mother. She’s the most supportive person. She’s always there. She always pushed me. My mom was the only mom who was at every tournament.”
When her father died of kidney failure when she was in sixth grade, Appel threw herself even more into sports. She began playing club volleyball a year later, taking his age when he died – 39 – as her number and has worn it ever since. When Appel decided on Molloy, where she will get both academic and athletic money, she got emotional thinking about how proud he would be.
“Just knowing how much I’ve accomplished with school and volleyball, I wish he could see the person I am today,” Appel said.
Maryann said her daughter’s grades dropped when Eddie died. But that didn’t last long. Appel turned the negative into the positive. She worked hard at volleyball and soccer. She vowed to learn from the mistakes of her father, who had a drinking problem. Even at that age, she wanted to make herself into a better human being.
“She was really close to him,” Maryann said. “Volleyball was her main focus. It really pulled her out [of a funk] in seventh grade.”
Appel hasn’t lost that work ethic, either. She got better each and every year at Midwood, becoming perhaps the most dominant middle hitter in the PSAL this season. The 6-foot Appel, The Post’s Brooklyn Player of the Year and All-City first team selection, led the Hornets to two straight Class A semifinals, ending the program’s seven-year final four drought.
“I think there’s more things to come,” Midwood coach Thomasina Lenzi said. “I think she’s definitely gonna be an impact player at Molloy. … I don’t think she’s even exploded yet. I don’t even think she’s 50 percent of what she could be.”
Appel chose Molloy over Division III schools Kean, Union and Lycoming. She’s proud of her standing as a scholarship athlete at the next level and cannot wait to play against that quality of players in practice every day.
“I’ve been training to do in since seventh grade,” Appel said. “I’ve been trying everything I could to get myself better since then.”
She’s playing with the Creole Big Apple Volleyball Club’s top team this spring and the Rockaway native plans on competing more on the beach this summer to get into the best shape possible.
Of course, wherever Appel is playing, Maryann isn’t too far away watching from the stands. However, she might face some tough decisions in the fall when younger daughter Michaela begins her freshman season at Midwood.
Chances are Maryann will find a way. Just like she did last summer in Buffalo.
“She means so much to me,” Appel said. “That was the best surprise I’ve ever had in my life.”
©2011 Community News Group
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