Varsity volleyball team take undefeated record into playoffs

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO | Kelly Colligan honoring her sister Erin at a ceremony celebrating the senior volleyball players Monday evening. A proud and happy Coach Cindy Belt looks on.

There’s no other way to say it except that the week of October 21-28 was an historic one for Shelter Island volleyball.

Monday night the Shelter Island girls volleyball team defeated the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs 25-18, 25-17, 25-18 to finish their 2013 league competition and put an exclamation point on their season. The team ended with an unblemished 12-0 record, and their fifth consecutive undefeated League VIII championship. The varsity team will now move on to the Suffolk County Class D playoffs, starting on Monday, November 4.

Prior to the varsity match, the four seniors on the squad were recognized for their leadership and years of dedication to the team. Erin Colligan, MeMe Lawrence, Logan Pendergrass and Brianna Rietvelt each received roses, and teammates thanked them for their inspiration and spoke of fond memories.

The JV team dropped the first two sets 9-25 and 15-25 before rebounding to take the last set 25-19. The squad finished the season 7-7.
Coming in to the home match, both the JV and varsity teams swept The Ross School and Greenport in straight sets.

Ross visited the Island on October 22 in time to hear the JV match starting with a unique team cheer: “For Logan!”

Senior and varsity Captain Logan Pendergrass had walked gingerly into the gym for the first time since her car accident over Columbus Day weekend and got lots of gentle hugs before cheering the team on to victory.

The Ross game showcased the improvements of this young JV team. The players are all polishing their skills and confidence as epitomized by Liz Larsen. Liz had a break-out match, with a season-high 5 kills and 3 serves over net, the last one to finish the match with an ace. The Ross team is also young, but most of the time resorted to quickly sending the ball back to the Island side on one hit, instead of working to set up a spike. The Island girls took the first set 25-16. The second set was tougher. Ross had gotten out to an 11-9 lead before Coach Karen Gibbs called a time out and the team refocused. Alexis Perlaki headed to the service line once the Blue and Gray was up 19-14, and 6 aces later won the set and secured match for the team. The third set also went well, with all contributing to a 25-19 win.

The JV continued their winning ways in Greenport on October 24, handily besting the Clippers 25-19, 25-16 and 25-19.

The varsity team has been working hard on serving consistency, and the Ross match on October 22 was a great place to showcase that concentration. Kenna McCarthy served us out to a 8-0 lead in the first set. Amira Lawrence has become even more comfortable in her middle hitter responsibilities. Her jumping abilities, paired with very good instincts and timing rattled the Cosmos as she confidently put up smart blocks.

In the second set Bre Rietvelt served half of the team’s 25 points with no errors. In the third set it was Erin Colligan’s turn to string 12 serves. Serves weren’t the only thing clicking, though. MeMe Lawrence has developed into a distinct threat at the net. Belying her height, she scored 5 points with her blocks and kills. The Blue and Gray swept the Cosmos 25-12, 25-11, 25-6.

Greenport has been surging in the second half of the season, beating teams they had lost to in the first round and taking matches from both Mercy and Stony Brook. As Stony Brook had taken a set from us at our last meeting, we approached the October 24 match against Greenport cautiously, but confidently.

The Greenport gym was very cold. Shivering even in their sweats, the girls warmed up slowly. We played the Clippers evenly at start of the match, before a well-balanced attack allowed us to pull ahead, then win the first stanza 25-13.

The second set was a different story. Sliding back into poor focus from the baseline, our first four servers turned the ball over immediately from errors. Margaret Michalak and Kelly Colligan finally steadied the team to pull us even at 9-9, only to have several hitting and receiving errors drag us back down to a 15-21 deficit. Buckling down to business, Kelly made a fantastic play, digging the ball just off the floor which had been blasted between two blockers to keep hope alive. We battled back to a 22-22 tie, before an ace by their top server brought us to the brink of losing 23-24. The team took advantage of a hitting error by Greenport, before a McCarthy ace and Erin Colligan kill allowed us to eke out a 26-24 win.

With jaws set and minds focused, the team lost no time in settling down in the third and final set, sprinting out to a 25-12 victory.

The top three teams in League VIII are the smallest: Class D. Stony Brook and Pierson each have three losses and are battling it out for second place in the league. The Blue and Gray have beaten each of them twice.

While the playoff schedule has changed several times, it now looks as though the Island will play the winner of the Pierson/Stony Brook match for the Suffolk County Class D championship on Monday, November 4 at 6 p.m. at Patchogue-Medford High School. If victorious there, we could move to the New York State Regional Semi-Finals on Wednesday, November 6 at 4 p.m. at James O’Neill High School up in Fort Montgomery.

A win there would move us to the Regionals Finals at 6 p.m. on Friday, November 8 at Pelham High School.