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Pre-season Peek at Island volleyball

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO | Setter Kenna McCarthy placing one perfectly for her teammates last year in a Shelter Island varsity volleyball team's win against Mercy. Kenna and many of her teamates are returning for this season.

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO | Setter Kenna McCarthy placing one perfectly for her teammates last year in a Shelter Island varsity volleyball team’s win against Mercy. Kenna and many of her teamates are returning for this season.

Two weeks before school starts the high school’s athletes have been getting up early and/or staying late to put in some good sweat time, preparing for what looks to be an even stronger fall season than 2014 for the volleyball, cross country and golf teams.

The volleyball team has 17 players on its roster, although injury may reduce that to just 16 athletes between two squads. The enthusiastic group is already pushing one another to run faster, more complex plays and to ensure every member of the team improves each practice.

We are led by a strong group of six seniors. Kenna McCarthy, Kelly Colligan and Margaret Michalak have been playing year-round for four years and their commitment to the sport shows. Kenna’s setting skills and confidence have grown and Margaret’s hitting continues to impress with its power while improving in its accuracy.

Kelly’s excellent passing and defensive skills shine on the court and her petite frame disguises her surprisingly hard hitting. Emily Hyatt, a tennis player until a year ago, has embraced volleyball whole-heartedly, playing club volleyball last winter and attending camps this summer. Her skyrocketing confidence is a joy to behold. Serina Kaasik and Colibri Lopez round out the senior crew.

Neither are terribly tall, but Colibri is beginning to master the quicker hits we hope to run this year, while Seri’s improving setting will be invaluable as she holds down the right side of the court.

Juniors make up the bulk of the rest of the team. Amira Lawrence was pulled up to the varsity squad as a freshman and has improved each season since.

This past year she’s mastered a mean jump serve and her outstanding blocking will be counted on to do damage against other teams’ spikers. Melissa Frasco is fearless and fast — a great combination at the libero position. Specializing in defense, she’s expected to frustrate other teams with her never-say-die pursuit of the ball.

Her sister Nicolette is in her second year of volleyball and she too is quick and expected to reprise her role as middle hitter. Julia Labrozzi’s laid-back, friendly demeanor hides a quick thinking player who is improving her hitting prowess.

Liz Larsen also trained throughout the winter and it shows — her height and blocking acumen will be invaluable along with her much improved serve. Genesis Urbaez is troubled by a sore left knee, a remnant of Lyme disease this summer. Her positive nature and team-first attitude will be sorely missed if she needs to go on injured reserve.

Sophomore setter Sarah Lewis also spent the winter playing and her ability to put up quicker sets and confidently “direct traffic” is wonderful. Isabella Sherman has been working hard on her game throughout the summer.

Her quicker feet and confidence to “swing away” at sets has impressed her coaches. Rounding out the sophomore class is Phoebe Starzee. The strong-armed shortstop of the softball team also has nice setting hands and this season we are challenging her to help run the offense.

Nichole Hand, a transfer from Southampton the middle of last year, and Ella Mysliborski are the only first-years on the squad. Nichole’s soccer goalie skills are transferring nicely to the court — she has a strong, take-charge style, which is terrific. Ella played club volleyball last winter and already understands the more complex high school game. That knowledge will pay big dividends, since she will be expected to on the court a great deal.

Second year JV coach Jim Theinert has been in Europe for the pre-season, but keeping up with the team’s progress via email. He’s thrilled by the quick progress the team is making. He said, “I learned so much during my first season as JV coach that I’m excited to come back and work with the girls again.

It’s a lot of the same team returning and I know that we can continue to improve together. I’m looking forward to a fun season.”

The league season starts on Labor Day with the JV squad traveling to Wyandanch. The following day, Tuesday, September 8 is our home opener for both squads against the Stony Brook School.

With the varsity team goals include making it all the way to Glens Falls for the state Final Four, we have thrown down the gauntlet and set the bar high.

Our mantra is still to play well and have fun. With team goals firmly in mind, we intend to do just that.