Volleyball: Indians unbeaten at halfway mark

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Shelter Island’s Alexis Gibbs (12) blocks a shot from Bridget Canavan of Pierson during Shelter Island’s three-set victory Tuesday at Pierson High School.

The second half of the volleyball season has started. We start to see our league rivals again, find out who has improved and what the playoff race is shaping up to be.

Both the varsity and JV squads have finished the first half of the season undefeated; a very impressive feat. The varsity is assured a playoff berth. Our goal is to finish at the top of the league, and if we maintain our focus, a fourth consecutive undefeated title is within our grasp.

This past week saw the teams each face two opponents. On Tuesday, October 9, the JV team played a make-up match against Smithtown Christian. The Shelter Island JV squad had only six eligible players but they handled the task easily. Smithtown Christian is a JV-only program, which means they have freshman through seniors on the team. The Golden Knights were definitely improved over last year and had won most of their matches. Their complimentary coach mentioned that her squad hadn’t seen the level of competition that Shelter Island provided yet this season.

As usual, the key to the victory was our serving. In the second set, Margaret Michalak served 14 straight points, moving the score from 3-3 to 17-3 before the Knights were able to get a side-out and win back the serve. Kelly Colligan and Colibri Lopez kept the pressure on as they scored 4 and 3 kills respectively. Logan Pendergrass was the star of the third set as she scored 5 aces. Shelter Island swept the match 25-16, 25-11, 25-12.

The following day, the team made the trip to Riverhead to face the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs. Coach Karen Gibbs did a little tweaking of her line-up to spread out her strongest servers. Unfortunately the team started slowly, with miscommunication and hesitation taking a toll. Despite an Elizabeth Dunning kill and a late scoring surge, they dropped the first set 25-27. Making some adjustments to their strategy for receiving serves, the team settled down. Kenna McCarthy made a terrific hustling save to bring the score to 13-10, then strung several serves. The second set ended 25-12.

The tie-breaker set started fast but the blue and grey’s mistakes forced a time out at 5-8. Buckling down to business, they tied up the score at 10-10, then ran away with the match on Colligan’s 19 serves and 12 aces, 25-10.

Throughout the JV match, Mercy’s gym was becoming pinker and pinker as streamers were wrapped around bleachers and balloons appeared in celebration of their Dig Pink match. Dig Pink is a volleyball-centered awareness and fundraising event for breast cancer research. Both the Monarchs and Indians sported bright pink Dig Pink shirts during warm-ups. Just before the match started, the four seniors on Mercy asked to make a short presentation. Thinking it was a talk about breast cancer, the team gathered respectfully, but were blown away when we were each presented with a yellow rose and a card which read: “We may be opponents on the court, but when the games end, and we go our separate ways, there’s no reason why we can’t be friends.”

VARSITY

The roses were a very nice gesture but we quickly got our game faces on. The Mercy squad has been improving but we had specific goals to meet during the match.  After a loss to Hampton Bays in a non-league match on October 5, I decided we needed to prepare different line-ups that would give us more flexibility in situations where things just weren’t jiving.

The first set we had Katy Binder run a 5-1 offense as the only setter. Ahead at 3-1, we had a huge rally, with the ball crossing the net five times. With Jayme Clark delivering creampuff passes, Katy set Alexis Gibbs in the middle, then Morgan McCarthy on the outside, then Saverina Chicka on the right side, then dumped the ball over the net. Mercy finally ended the point on a nice kill, but Shelter Island settled down quickly and, behind the nice blocking work of TiTi Lawrence, took the first set 25-14.

MeMe Lawrence split the setting duties with Katy the rest of the match. Saverina Chicka brought her tough serve into play, scoring 7 aces. Despite the improvement in the Monarchs play in the past month, we still won easily, taking the last two sets 25-15 and 25-19.

On Friday, October 12, the Ross Cosmos visited our gym. They are a young team struggling with serve receive. Shelter Island sprinted out to a 16-0 lead behind Katy Binder’s serves, Erin Colligan’s scrambling digs and Tara Sturges’ steady defense and took the first set 25-10. In the second set, Alexis Gibbs took over where Kathy left off, scoring 10 aces with her newly consistent jump serve and leading the team to a 25-13 win. Melissa Ames provided nice back court work in the third set as Katy ran the court, connecting with Alexis on a beautiful quick set to the middle to seal the match in less than an hour at 25-9.

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