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Shelter Island volleyball teams start season with wins

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | The Shelter Island varsity and junior varsity  volleyball teams.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | The Shelter Island varsity and junior varsity volleyball teams.

The league season for Shelter Island volleyball has started with both the JV and varsity squads sporting ticks in the win column.

The JV squad started their league schedule on their home court against Knox Wednesday, September 10.

The team started a bit tentatively, with Knox building a 22-17 lead. That was when “Dr.” Julia Labrozzi stepped to the serving line. Calmly and efficiently, and backed up by the heads-up play of her teammates, she served 8 straight and brought us back to life for a 25-17 victory.

In the second set, despite Liz Larsen’s nice middle hit followed by a great block, Knox went on a serving string of its own, handing the Blue and Gray a 10-25 loss. The tiebreaker featured some excellent scrambles and defensive work.

In Coach Jim Theinert’s favorite moment of the match, Knox, down 16-24, tried a desperate just-put-the-ball-back-over-in-one tactic. Each time Shelter Island came back with a textbook 3-hit response, showing confidence in their skills. The Island girls got the final point, with a very nice 25-17 win to start their league record at 1-0.

On Friday both teams took the long bus ride to Stony Brook to face the fellow Class D Bears. The varsity, which has been practicing a new defensive scheme, seemed a bit tentative. The score bounced back and forth until Amira Lawrence’s block pulled us ahead 14-13, then served a string of points as Shelter Island put on a burst to pull ahead 23-14. But after the Stony Brook coach called a timeout, the Bears responded with 6 straight points as the Islanders let down their guard before awakening to close out the set 25-21.

The second set was bit more closely played, with Taylor Rando making a terrific running save off the court to tie the score at 13-13. The Bears had winning in their sights and had the lead at 20-17, but then server-extraordinaire Kelly Colligan unleashed 7 straight, including 2 aces to leapfrog to a 25-20 victory.

With two sets under their belt, and positions and responsibilities becoming more “second nature,” the Islanders began to settle into a groove. Margaret Michalak looked relaxed, serving well, scoring 8 service points in the third set alone, while notching 10 aces for the match. Serina Kaasik and Emily Hyatt blocked a ball to score the 20th point, and formed the winning block again as Stony Brook couldn’t return a spike on match point. The 25-16 score to seal the match was a more comfortable win.

The JV’s Stony Brook match was a see-saw affair. Strong serving was the key in the first set with Phoebe Starzee serving to a 14-1 lead. Nicolette Frasco was very scrappy, getting some nice swings from the middle and Jaime Costillo also had her serve revved up. The squad coasted to a 25-9 start.

In the second set Issie Sherman and Genesis Urbaez got into the mix, both contributing at the outside hitter spot. But the Bears had retrenched, and battled their way to a 25-22 win. The tiebreaker featured the Blue and Gray setting up their hitters nicely, while showing great defensive scrambles.

In a déjà vu moment, Julia Labrozzi was at the serving line with her team down 21-23 and running out of time. She brought us to the edge of victory at 24-23 before the determined Bears struck back. It was a point-for-point battle until Stony Brook inched ahead in “extra innings” for the match win, 28-26.

The next day the varsity team headed to a tournament at Mattituck. This was a last minute addition to the schedule, so with Margaret Michalak and Taylor Rando absent due to previous commitments, JV players Liz Larsen, Melissa Frasco and Sarah Lewis mixed in nicely. Each player had to be flexible as lineups changed nearly every set.

Kenna McCarthy’s patience and stamina was essential since she was the primary setter all day. Kelly Colligan’s familiarity with tournament play through her club volleyball experience was a boon to the team, as she also was able to help the younger girls pace themselves for the long day of competition. Colibri Lopez was asked fill in for several positions, swinging outside, or relieving a teammate in the back row. Her ability to adjust to different demands was greatly appreciated. Alexis Perlaki is the defensive specialist on varsity, and traded back row duties with Melissa Frasco.

All the teams were from the Suffolk County: Riverhead, Miller Place, Mattituck and Hampton Bays are in the larger school leagues, while Shelter Island, Greenport and Pierson all hail from League VIII. With victories over Pierson and an impressively strong Greenport team, along with nice play against Rocky Point, we ended up tied for third in the tournament.

It was great to be challenged with some strong offense from the bigger schools. We will face Greenport and Pierson again in league play, and it was good to get a sneak peek at them, although each team will undoubtedly look different with full squads.

With the teams getting into the swing of the season, it’s great fun to see each athlete develop and gain confidence. Come to the gym this afternoon to see the Ross match.