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Preseason peek at Shelter Island volleyball

COURTESY PHOTO The Island’s legendary three-time collegiate All-American volleyball star Kelsey McGahey, center, dropped in at a recent practice of this year’s Shelter Island High School team,
The Island’s legendary three-time collegiate All-American volleyball star Kelsey McGahey, center, dropped in at a recent practice of this year’s Shelter Island High School team.

Labor Day is nigh and high school sports are back.

The volleyball team has been hitting the court since August 21 with new look of both seasoned players and new, enthusiastic talent. There is even a new coach in the gym.

Jim Theinert, who has been the JV coach for the past three season, has stepped down to free up his schedule to expand his role at the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund. We are very happy to have Shelter Island’s ENL teacher, Laura Mayo, in the gym.

A former volleyball and basketball player at Babylon High School, Ms. Mayo has also coached the girls junior high basketball team here the past two seasons, and has coached basketball and lacrosse at the high school level.

Coaching runs in the family — Ms. Mayo’s mom is the JV coach at Babylon, and we have set up a match against them at the end of our season.

Overall, the 2017 team is quite young, with only four of 17 players juniors or seniors. We lost seven players to the graduating class of 2017, and had lost six the previous year. However, the coaches are y happy with the level of focus the girls are bringing, and feel that the experience gap will close quickly as the season goes on.

With a history of 13 consecutive Class D county championships and playoff appearances, the team has its eye on the prize of continuing that impressive streak.

Returning senior Sarah Lewis’s calm, steady leadership will anchor the offense as our setter, while classmate Phoebe Starzee’s increasing confidence in putting up balls will be a great counterpoint, and perhaps allow Sarah to hit a little more this season. Nichole Hand is our only junior, but her powerful hitting has stepped up a notch this year, and her focused attitude is showing in her intent passing and defense.

Senior Caitlin Binder and sophomore Abby Kotula both ran cross country last year, but were unable to compete much due to injuries. This year we are happy to welcome them to the volleyball court for the first time where both are fast, smart and fearless.

They will be key players in our defensive line.

We have a big sophomore class: Maria Carbajal, Amelia Clark, Lyng Coyne, Jen Lupo, Amelia Reiter, Isabelle Topliff and Audrey Wood are all returning from the 2016 campaign. A mix of tall and powerful and small and speedy, this class has a nice array of talents, and some will make the leap to varsity this season.

Jane Richards is a 9th grader who has dedicated herself to the game of volleyball.

She played club ball last winter and attended multiple camps this past summer. Her enthusiasm and desire to “do it right” are an inspiration for the rest of the gym.

Classmates Lydia Shepherd and Grace Olinkiewicz both bring height and a great learning attitude. Emma Teodoru is also expected to join the team and we look forward to training her fast reflexes and determined athletic pursuit in service to volleyball.

Our youngest player is 8th grader Bella Springer. Already a veteran of high school sports through her participation on the varsity softball team last spring, she’s quickly learning the skills, and brings an athletic attitude to everything.

The team got a special treat on Friday, August 25. Kelsey McGayhey, class of 2012, stopped by the gym. A three-time All American volleyball player at Springfield College, Kelsey shared some inspiring words about the value of teamwork and the joy of playing. She even hit a few balls when shyly asked by a player.

It’s great to have alums come back to share their experiences, and to know that their successes all started in our gym, right here in our small community.

While the first week of practice primarily focused on individual skills, we’re now beginning to connect the dots as we move into a flow of teamwork on the court. The girls are bringing good energy, and as we gain momentum the team is truly embodying Shelter Island volleyball’s mantra of “Play Well and Have Fun.”

Our first league game is against Port Jefferson at home on Friday, September 1 (10 a.m. JV and 11:30 a.m. varsity). Come cheer on your local team!