As the junior high early winter sports season draws to a close, it’s a pleasure to see the young athletes getting comfortable on the court.
JH girls volleyball Coach Brian Becker said, “Things are starting to click and the girls have come a long way since the start of the season —if we look back to start of season when we were happy to just hit the ball. Now we are actively working on getting three hits.”
In the home game against a strong Montauk team on January 11, this progression was evident, as the Islanders made many three-hit attempts. This pass-set-hit series allows the team to produce a more effective offense, rather than simply putting the ball back over on one or two hits.
Serving also makes a huge difference at the JH level, and both the East Moriches match on January 9 and the Montauk game had many athletes with consistent serves. East Moriches put over 88 of 122 (72 percent) attempts while the Islanders managed 36 of 75 (48 percent). Montauk was also strong-armed, with 94 successful out of 121 (78 percent) compared to 39 of 72 (54 percent) for the Islanders, with one player serving 20 consecutive – an amazing feat even at a varsity level. Despite the serving discrepancies, the home team won sets against both Montauk and East Moriches.
Consistency comes with experience, and the JH girls have only one athlete who has played in both 7th and 8th grade. That’s 8th grader Emma Teodoru, tiny but tough and is developing into a quiet but strong team leader both on and off court. The remainder of the team is playing their first year of organized volleyball, with some improving by leaps and bounds.
Volleyball is a fast, skill-based game. Unlike basketball or other sports where you can hold the ball or slow down the pace to catch your breath, volleyball just keeps on moving. The most valuable athletes are learning not only ball-handling skills, but the life skills of empathy and teamwork.
Olivia Overstreet consistently calls the ball, communicating to her teammates. Both she and Lily Page are becoming more confident in their serving with delighted smiles spreading across their faces with each successful attempt.
It’s terrific to see the support for all players from the stands. Cheers for three-hit attempts are also more common as parents understand that “just getting it over the net” won’t serve the girls well as they progress in the game.
Against East Moriches, Daria Kolmogorova passed a ball, Emma Martinez Madjisova set it up, and despite the hit that didn’t go over, parents praised the attempt.
Dayla Reyes and Allie Brush have established themselves as the top servers on the team, each with an over 70 percent success rate. Kathy Ramos, Bella Springer and Valeria Reyes often move well on the court, chasing wayward balls to help get the point.
Their court sense is developing nicely and their enthusiasm is contagious. Lydia Shephard, Grace Olinkiwiecz and Franny Regan maintain positive attitudes on the court, and all three love to jump and hit the ball (spike) when given an opportunity.
Coach Becker said, “I’m looking forward to great games this last week and ending on a positive note to build on for the future.”
The team’s final game is Friday, January 20 at 3 p.m. against the Ross School, a rematch of the close match on January 13. With their skills all peaking at the end of the season, it should be a great finish to a fun season.