For athletes comfortable with the intimate gathering places on Shelter Island, the Suffolk County Volleyball Coaches Association awards dinner Monday night at the East Wind in Wading River was eye-opening.
Decorated in holiday lights and trees with immense chandeliers illuminating the grand ballroom, the venue was both inspiring and a bit intimidating.
There were over 600 people present. Players were outfitted to the nines, most in fancy dresses and many in towering heels. Even normally warmup-suited coaches were spruced up for the occasion.
The Shelter Island table was right beside the dance floor and podium. As both league and county champs, the Island girls did a lot of standing for recognition and taking trips to the podium to gather their awards.
Seven players attended the affair. Senior captain Taylor Rando snagged her first All-League award, and Alexis Perlaki received a handsomely framed certificate for All-League Honorable Mention. Junior Serina Kaasik and sophomore Amira Lawrence each made a trip to the podium for their All-League plaques awarded for meritorious play within the League.
Hard-hitting Margaret Michalak, ace-serving Kelly Colligan and setter Kenna McCarthy were recognized by coaches from other teams for their above-and-beyond leadership and each won the All-Classification award, reserved for those who are cream of the crop within Classes B, C and D. Kelly also was applauded as part of the Class D All-County Tournament Team for her role in capturing the county title.
Kenna McCarthy ended the evening with an armful of plaques. She was one of only eight athletes in the county recognized as the Most Valuable Player in their League. She was also named MVP of the Class D County Tournament. Most significantly, she was named to the third team All-New York State in Class D. For a hard-working setter, habitually under appreciated by fans, it was sweet to be validated for her non-stop hustle and leadership on the court.
Even coaches got into the action. I was honored to be named League VIII Coach of the Year.
However, the evening wasn’t just about gathering hardware. Proud parents got to see their daughters within the context of the wider volleyball world. Players got to mingle with friends from other teams, coaches socialized outside of the gym and athletes were inspired to strive to even greater heights in seasons to come.
Amira Lawrence recognized Simi Familusi, the outstanding middle hitter from John Glenn, whom Amira had admired for her inspiring play at the State Final Four in Glens Falls. At the end of the evening the pair was introduced and Amira had her photo taken with Simi.
Similar in height and jumping ability, Simi’s many athletic and academic accomplishments will set the bar high for Amira as she continues her high school career. Meanwhile, the taken-aback, but flattered Simi now knows she’s a role model for younger players beyond her own community.
For every girl it was a fun night to be recognized for her months of dedication to maintaining high goals and pushing for her personal best as measured, point by point, on a hardwood court.