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Shelter Island volleyball offense clicking in home win

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Kelly Colligan goes airborne for the point in Shelter Island’s September 17 straight set victory at home against Pierson
Kelly Colligan goes airborne for the point in Shelter Island’s September 17 straight set victory at home against Pierson.

If only one word was used to describe the September 10 Pierson vs. Shelter Island varsity volleyball game, it would probably be “boom!”

Shelter Island’s offense was cranked up and Margaret Michalak and Amira Lawrence’s resounding hits were well appreciated by the home crowd. Shelter Island won the match in three straight, 25-10, 25-17 and 25-7.

Pierson is an up-and-coming program, with a core of juniors working to improve the team’s record. However, the Island’s strong serving, which comes in many different “flavors,” was difficult for visitors to shake. Kelly Colligan’s fast, low serve aced the Whalers six times.

Emily Hyatt’s new jump float dipped and dropped, and she scored 4 points directly from her serve. Melissa Frasco’s strong-armed topspin serve came at receivers so fast they had little time to react and she notched 4 aces as well.

While nearly one-third of the Island’s points came on serves, the team also earned just as many on excellent offensive efforts. Kenna McCarthy put up 24 assists (sets leading directly to points when a hitter “kills” the ball). It was a pleasure to see her confidently signaling the spikers on the team before each rally, setting up the offense. Colibri Lopez can play nearly any position on the court. Her can-do attitude is infectious and her hard work at hitting quicker sets is beginning to pay off.

Seri Kaasik, with her long blond ponytail flying behind her, had several excellent hustles to pick up a wayward ball and get it back into play. Last year she mainly played in the front row, but her ability to be at the right place at the right time on defense is a boon to this season’s squad.

The team has been working on generating an attack on as many possessions as possible, and that good “first touch” is essential to our ability to run our offense.

Pierson Coach Donna Fischer, a former player from East Hampton, complimented her opponents on the ability to swing away on sets from almost anywhere on the court, smiling ruefully as she shook my hand. Donna is instilling the love of the game in her players. I expect our rematch in October will be a more difficult challenge.

The junior varsity match was, both the Pierson and Island coaches agreed, fun as well as “real volleyball.” JV squads are still mastering skills and teamwork roles and many games are largely determined by which team’s servers can make the least mistakes. While that was a factor in the Island’s 25-14 first set win, with Sarah Lewis, Nichole Hand and Phoebe Starzee all reeling off multiple aces, the second and third sets featured far more polished rallies. Each team is obviously coached to use three hits, to play defense and not give up.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Kelly Colligan goes airborne for the point in Shelter Island’s September 17 straight set victory at home against Pierson.
All for one. JV Coach Jim Theinert prepares his team to take the floor.

In the second set, the Island started ahead with Liz Larsen blocking at the net and Nicolette Frasco jumping high for a kill on a back row attack. Issie Sherman’s improving passing allowed Sarah Lewis to set up the Blue and Gray spikers. However, the Whalers warmed to the task, and despite Julia Labrozzi’s fine defensive sprawls and nice kill to pull the Island to within 5 points at 11-16, the Whalers took advantage of a series of miscommunications to go on a 6 point run to close out the set 25-16 and force the tiebreaker.

JV squads always play three sets, with two out of three needed to win the match. The tie-breaking third set started slowly for the home team as Pierson served out to a 3-10 lead. Smart tipping by Sarah Lewis got the ball back and Ella Mysliborski served 3 points to close the gap to 7-11.

In the tie-breaker, teams switch sides of the court at 13 to nullify any court advantage. Just after the switch, a bad line call by the ref seemed to derail the Blue and Gray’s comeback for a point or two, then the Island defense kicked in. Hand had a nice kill, Starzee raced to chase down an errant ball and, despite Pierson’s equally determined defense, another Island textbook pass, set, hit point sealed the match 25-18.

This first week of league competition has resulted in a 2-1 record for the JV and a 2-0 record for the varsity. Our next match is Friday, September 18 at the Stony Brook School. The JV squad will travel to Eastport–South Manor on the September 19 for the chance to gain valuable experience in an all-day tournament.