Shelter Island volleyball girls remain undefeated

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO | Shelter Island varsity volleyball player Serina Kaasik leaping to spike the ball back to the Pierson Whalers Thursday, October 10. Her teammates backing up the play are, from left, Erin Colligan, MeMe Lawrence and Logan Pendergrass.

The “Dig Pink” Pierson match Thursday, October 10, celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month marked the start of the second half of the season for the Shelter Island School volleyball players. With teams throughout the league improving and adapting, it’s fun to see how the first and second half matches stack up.

There’s no doubt that the JV team is becoming more and more confident, and is really having fun playing. The September Pierson match was a tough loss that the team took hard. The October match was well fought, with Shelter Island coming up a little short 23-25, 18-25 and 21-25. But there were no long faces after the match. In their special pink uniforms, the girls staffed the donation table and cheered on the varsity team, pleased with their improved efforts.

The varsity team approached the Pierson match confidently, but cautiously. Pierson is much improved over last year, and is a fellow Class D school gunning to knock us out of first place.  At the start we jumped out to an 18-4 lead, but Pierson then outscored us 2-1, to creep up to 17 before a MeMe Lawrence spike won the set. Aside from the very first point, we never trailed in the second and won 25-19. The third and final set was more evenly played, featuring 12 ties before the Blue and Gray (and for one night, Pink) scored 5 straight to win 25-21 and clinch the match.

The next day the teams packed up and headed to the Stony Brook School. We don’t always travel well, and with rival Class D Stony Brook breathing down our neck at the number 2 spot in League VIII, it proved to be an interesting afternoon.

Despite this coach’s warning of the need to start fast, the varsity team allowed the Bears to sprint out to a 5-0 lead before we settled down.  Kelly Colligan strung five serves to tie it up 8-8, and then we sailed to a 25-15 win. Although Stony Brook has tough serves and a hustling defense, they don’t have much traditional offense. It doesn’t mean they don’t score points though, and the second set was a competitive 25-19 race.

Our team’s Achilles heel has been a let-down in intensity in set three. When coupled with 8 missed serves, it led to the first league set loss since 2010. This unevenness is to be expected with a younger team, but it was disappointing. Chagrined, the girls stumbled a little at the start of the fourth set, but regrouped and took the final set 25-18 to continue their undefeated streak. The varsity record stands at 8-0, with four to go.

Following the varsity match, the JV put together a nice effort to defeat the Bears, 25-7, 22-25 and 25-20. It was their first tiebreaker of the year and they rose to the occasion nicely. The JV team’s record is 4-5, with five matches to go.

On Saturday, October 12, the varsity team was back at it. Meeting at 6:30 a.m., we watched the sun rise, bundled onto a bus and headed to the Bayport Blue Point Tournament.  Tournament play allows us to see tougher hitting, serving and defense than in League VIII.  Our goal for the day was to see how we stacked up against the larger and more competitive teams, to learn from the experience and prepare ourselves for playoffs.

Overall I was pleased with our efforts. In pool play we faced each team twice. We surprised Sayville, who is tied for first place in League VI, with a feisty 24-25, 23-25 showing.  Bayport Blue Point, one of top teams in League VII rattled us with tough serves at first, but we settled down to a 12-25, 19-25 pace. Longwood, one of the largest teams on Long Island, was shocked as we took the first set 25-22, but handed us a 12-25 loss in the second. In the playoffs we faced Comswogue and beat them 25-23 and 25-14 to move to the Silver Bracket finals where we faced Longwood again.  They won, but the little team of Blue and Gray scored 13-25, 21-25, and finished with heart and pride, getting back to the island just in time to see the sun set.

With just two weeks of league play left, we are polishing up our skills and making necessary adjustments in lineups to finish the season strongly and prepare for the postseason.