JV and varsity volleyball teams are off to a strong start

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO | Sophomore Kenna McCarthy serving in the varsity home opener against Stony Brook last Thursday.

The Shelter Island JV volleyball team gathered in the warm confines of the their school’s gym on Thursday, September 12. There was excitement and nervousness — it was the league opener, and their first official match.

Although coaches had stressed how quickly league games would progress, the live action and higher speed was tough for the young team at the start. Unlike basketball where you can hold the ball, or bring it up slowly, there is no way to stop a volleyball. The only time you hold the ball is when you serve. Everything else is a momentary touch. There is no “wait, wait” in volleyball.

The visiting Stony Brook Bears took advantage of our confusion and raced out to a 2-9 lead. Coach Karen Gibbs called a timeout to remind the girls of their correct positions on the court. Reassured, the serve receive settled down, setter Shawna Goody was able to get to the ball more easily and we began to see the tide swing in our favor. Alexis Perlaki’s steady serving tied the score at 17-17. Still behind 19-23, Amira Lawrence stepped to the serving line. Two aces later, coupled with a few errors by the Bears, and the home team had their first set victory of 2013, 25-23.

In JV volleyball, three sets (games) are played; the winner must win two of three. Melissa Frasco showed her tough spinning serves and quick defense in the 25-14 win in the second set, while Liz Larsen added a point with a kill of her own. Elizabeth Dunning’s improving serve added points and Genesis Urbanez was able to gain some confidence and front row work in the 25-9 third set win. The sweep was sweet and the smiling squad took to the sidelines to watch and take statistics on the varsity match.

The varsity team warmed up after the JV match, keeping an eye on Stony Brook. With only seven players available, we had to put the right combination of players on the floor to best defend against this Class D rival. The Bears sported stronger than expected serving, and a scrappy defense that kept the ball in play.

The Island girls like to run a fast and varied offense, but our serve receive wasn’t tuned in enough in the first set to allow that. Balls were passed to the middle of the court — playable, but not optimal. Setter Kenna McCarthy hustled over the entire court, chasing down passes.

She would end the day with 25 assists. Margaret Michalak’s high flying jump serves and hard swings struck fear in the Stony Brook hearts, but the Bears were resilient, popping up ball after ball. Serina Kaasik quietly chipped in a kill, while Kelly Colligan patrolled the back court as “libero,” the defensive specialist, and our secret serving weapon. Shelter Island took the first set 25-21.

A 25-18 second set win led to a bit of overconfidence in the last set. Down 13-19, then 20-23, the team finally roared back to score five straight points to calm this nervous coach and seal our first league victory, 25-23.

On Monday we traveled to Sag Harbor to take on the Pierson High School Whalers, also a Class D school this year, and a potential playoff contender.

The JV team struggled a bit against the Whalers. Shawna Goody, who normally handles setting duties, was out sick. Taylor Rando calmly stepped into the demanding role, but the tough serving Sag Harbor squad made it difficult to get a good pass to her. Colibri Lopez, back on the court after missing the Stony Brook match, swung hard from the middle. Unfortunately our serving was erratic, and despite a nice serving run by Julia Labrozzi at the end of the third set, the blue and grey was handed a 14-25, 15-25 and 14-25 loss.

The varsity had an easier time of it. Pierson showed grit and hustle, but the Islanders’ consistent ball handling and heads up defensive work wore them down, setting up a win with scores of 25-13, 25-17 and 25-10.