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JV team shows grit, signs of improvement as season goes on

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO The Shelter Island varsity volleyball team comes together for a huddle.
The Shelter Island varsity volleyball team comes together for a huddle.

Shelter Island volleyball’s mantra is to play well, have fun and get better every day. Over the past week, we did just that.

The young JV squad has been working hard improving its skills throughout the season, and against the Stony Brook Bears on Friday, October 14 the team’s persistent work came to fruition.

Jim Theinert is constantly tweaking lineups to put players with the best developed skills in places they can succeed. On Friday he did something that less creative coaches would have overlooked: he moved Amelia Reiter, the tallest player on the team, into the setting position. Reiter is quick and attentive as a setter, and being a lefty gives her a distinct advantage: When balls are passed close to the net she is in the perfect position to attack them on the second hit, surprising the opponent.

Strong serving started the set, with Amelia Clark and Lyng Coyne both powering the ball over for multiple points. Isabelle Topliff had a nice kill from a Reiter set. But the Bears kept the pressure on, and despite some very nice defensive work by libero Jane Richards, and lots of things being done correctly, the Blue and Grey had a hard time getting the ball to land for points and they dropped the first set 25-16.

The next set the team recognized a Bear server and adjusted its receive before Coach Theinert directed the players, garnering a proud nod from him. Audrey Wood hit a ball over, then quickly got a chance to block another one down. Her shy smile was great to see. Clark stepped to the serving line and served five straight points before the Bears were able to get their last point to close out the set, 25-19.

During the second set, Amelia Reiter got into a tangle, twisting her foot, and sat out for a bit. However, her insistent “I’m fine. Put me in, coach” pleas won over Theinert, and she started the final frame. But quickly Maria Carbajal subbed in for her, directing the offense to allow the limping Reiter to rest.
Jen Lupo, who had been quiet during the early games, came to life to help push the team onward. As a middle hitter, she stepped in to “help set” during a broken play, and Amelia Clark hit it down for a point.

The very next point she spiked one down for a kill, and the JV squad had its second set win of the season, 25-22.

The team’s joy and pride was priceless, and the players’ infectious enthusiasm sparked wide smiles for the varsity team, coaches and fans.

The varsity has faced a tough time this year. Injuries and other conflicts have diminished our roster for the majority of our matches, and the rematch against Stony Brook was no different. Neither starter Nichole Hand nor Phoebe Starzee was available, so players who have played a supporting role for most of the season stepped up their game.

Genesis Urbaez started at outside hitter, handling a lot of serve and receive duties as well as offense. Olivia Yeaman earned cheers for both a service ace as well as a kill, but the Bears went on to sweep the match 25-15, 25-18 and 25-14.

However, the very next morning, just over 14 hours after we had faced them on our home court, we met the Bears again at the seven-team Pierson tournament. And in the first match of the day-long event we were able to do something we hadn’t done all season — win a set from the Bears, setting the tone for a fun and well-played day.

We only had six varsity players suited up, but JV athletes Amelia Clark, Isabelle Topliff and Maria Carbajal donned the long sleeve jerseys and got a taste of life on the varsity court. Each got playing time, making an impact along the way. Amelia got the nod to play outside hitter. Her height was a boon for blocking, and her tough serves helped earn many points. Izzy is a quick defensive player and despite her small size can also hit the ball with power. Maria normally plays in the setting postion, but her improving defensive skills were put to the test Saturday.

Olivia Yeaman is a first-year player and she has been working hard to sharpen her skills. She was in the hot seat much of the day, and emerged justly proud of her contributions. She is noticeably more confident on the court, and a quick study.

Domily Gil is a competitor and enjoyed playing in both the front and back row without a break the entire day. Her blocking and serving has really blossomed, as has her confidence on the court overall.

Melissa Frasco, libero, was extremely flexible, playing multiple positions without missing a beat, while bringing a take-no-prisoners style of play to the court. She had to remember not only which player she was in for, but also the different defensive responsibilities of each — very difficult in such a fast-moving game as volleyball.

Nicolette Frasco played in the middle. Even late in the day she was jumping high and putting up good blocks and hits. Her serves were quite reliable and her improving defensive work also allowed others to take a break from the demanding back row.

Julia Labrozzi isn’t terribly tall, but she has been called on to be a primary hitter this season. In addition, she had multiple digs on tough hits and her reads on the court have improved tremendously. She is a key communicator on the team.

Sarah Lewis is our rock-steady setter. Setters are invariably the most underappreciated players by fans, but certainly not by her team or coach. Sarah never sat for a point the entire day and her athleticism as she chases balls down is invaluable. I love to see the quiet smile that is her cheer.

The team did a great job facing six larger school opponents. During pool play we split with Class A Comsewogue, Class B Hampton Bays and Class C Stony Brook. We also won two sets against Class C Greenport/Southold, while losing both stanzas to Class B Southampton and Class C Pierson. The 5-7 record put us up against third-seeded Comsewogue in the playoffs.

Gathering outside the hot gym after competing for seven hours, the team was tired, sweaty and happy.

With just three league games left in the regular season, we had gained valuable experience and confidence in one another.

It will be a sprint to the end of the season, and I am looking forward to sharing it with this fun and proud group of athletes.

We finish out our home games with our Senior Sendoff on Friday, October 21 against McGann-Mercy.

Our final league match will be against first-place Pierson on Tuesday, Oct 25. Come cheer on the team!