Serving is a priority at volleyball practice for Shelter Island. And for the first 22 points of the JV match against Greenport/Southold on September 22, Sarah Lewis made her coaches look like geniuses.
Both impossible-to-return aces and excellent supporting plays by the Blue and Gray allowed Sarah to build a 22-0 lead, and the team cruised to a 25-5 win.
The second set was much more evenly played. Shelter Island continued to call the ball, transition well and play excellent positional offense, but the Clippers got their serve/receive adjusted and their hitters started swinging a bit more. But our girls remained calm and took the second set and sealed the win 25-14.
Junior varsity always plays three sets, even if the 2-out-of-3 match win is already accomplished. In the third set Nicolette Frasco was hitting nicely and Liz Larsen, the other middle hitter, was impressing the crowd with her blocking instincts. The Island girls swept the match, with a 25-17 win in the third.
Following the JV victory, the varsity team hit the court. We had seen Greenport twice at the Mattituck tournament nine days earlier, defeating them both times, but with each team missing players, it was difficult to predict the outcome of this match. Despite my trepidation that Greenport appears to be our strongest competition in League VIII, the players were actually fairly confident.
In the first set Kenna McCarthy mixed up the offense, setting both outside and middle positions and scoring kills of her own by dumping the ball over to unprotected areas of the court. Fairly evenly matched until 17-17, the Clippers had a string of four bad points and the Blue and Gray took the first set 25-19.
The second set was a nail-biting battle. The Islanders started nicely, using a variety of offensive weapons — hard hits mixed with tips and off-speed shots. Emily Hyatt won a joust at the net, overpowering the Greenport block. Kelly Colligan and Kenna McCarthy connected on a sweet quick set that Kelly cut back into the court for a winner, causing this coach to produce a happy exclamation that caused the team to break into laughter.
Amira Lawrence and McCarthy combined for a block to put us up 20-10, but the Clippers wouldn’t quit. Tough servers gained a few points, while suddenly our offense sputtered. The Clippers rode the wave of momentum to a 24-24 tie before we righted the ship and gutted out a 26-24 win.
The third set was more evenly balanced. With Seri Kaasik deftly placing tips over for points, Margaret Michalak playing smart on offense and Alexis Perlaki and Taylor Rando digging in on defense, the Blue and Gray trailed only briefly at the start as they won in three straight: 25-18.
The victory comes on the heels of the 25-20, 25-12 and 25-18 victory over Pierson on September 17, lifting the team to a 4-0 league record.
As we continue to juggle lineups a bit to tweak our performance, I’m impressed with the unselfish attitudes of players who are working diligently to improve their skills even when playing time might not be what they would like. With only 18 athletes between two squads, their work will pay off in the long run.
The beauty of Shelter Island athletics is that each individual is valued and wanted, and with 2/3 of the season still ahead of us, I’m excited to see how the teams will continue to gel.