If the Shelter Island junior high girls volleyball team was featured in a Staples ad, there would be a button for it — as in “easy.”
The JH girls took the floor against East Moriches on Tuesday, December 12 for their first game of the season, and came away with a win.
Coach Taylor Kelly, in her second year at Shelter Island School as a physical education teacher, has taken over the reins of the JH volleyball program from fellow teacher Brian Becker. She’s excited to teach athletic movement and the basics of the sport, while making sure the girls have fun. The team set a goal for the 2017/2018 season: They wanted to win a match this year.
Last year they were competitive, winning many sets, but never winning a full match.
With many returning athletic players, their hard work and increasing skills have paid off as they beat the Eagles, reaching their season goal on their first match. Therefore, the Staples reference: “That was easy.”
Easy being a relative term, of course. East Moriches had a large squad, with some talented players. However, the Island JH squad this year is also quite large: 18 athletes turned out for the team. With so many players, Coach Kelly decided to break the team into three squads of six players each.
At the JH level, the focus is on development of skills and equal playing time. While winning is nice, the primary goal is allowing each athlete to gain skills and confidence. The overall idea is to rotate the A, B and C squads. Each match is 5 sets. The team that wins any three sets takes the match, but the five sets are always played to allow player development.
The first set of the East Moriches match opened slowly, with a strong armed Eagles players serving 13 in a row. Once the home team got their momentum, they played evenly with the visitors.
Isabelle Fonseca showed she too could serve well, getting three aces in four attempts. Lily Page showed her growth since last season with some nice passes. Seventh graders Margaret Schultheis and Alex Burns both are hustling players, and chased down several balls.
East Moriches took the first set 25-9.
The second set was more evenly played. Emma Martinez Majdisova has a steady and strong serve. She served seven in a row, with four aces. Cassie Espinoza Heimann, Olivia Overstreet and Martinez Majdisova combined for a three-hit attack, the goal of coaches everywhere. The Eagles still served well, getting out to a 21-13 lead. But Shelter Island didn’t give up.
Angelina Rice’s service ace, Franny Regan’s pass over the net for a point and Madison Springer’s support allowed the Blue and Gray to take the match 25-22.
The third set was very closely played. East Moriches continued to show they could hit the ball, but Madigan Teodoru showed she wasn’t intimidated, getting down to dig the ball up. Mary Gennari is a calm and collected player with great passing form.
She put the ball up for Andrea Napoles, who got it to Kathy Ramos — another three- hit play. Springer helped by calling the ball. Ramos ended up serving the final 6 points, with Daria Kolmogorova gaining the final point for the win, 25-21.
With confidence brimming, the squad started the fourth set. Another three-hit play by Burns, Schultheis and Page had the fans cheering, but strong Moriches serving rattled the team, and communication began to falter.
Dayla Reyes impressed the crowd with her quick feet and pretty hands as she raced from the back row to prevent a ball from hitting the floor near the net, setting it over the net for a point, surprising the Eagles. The visitors won the set 25-14, setting up the tiebreaker.
With the match on the line, East Moriches immediately jumped out to a 7-0 lead. However, the game was now featuring many more volleys and a higher level of play. Rice sent the ball over to an unguarded part of the Eagles court, allowing Allie Brush to step to the serving line. Serving 11 straight and backed up by Martinez Majdsova’s sets, Brush moved the team to a 12-8 lead.
The Eagles tried to make a run, but a crowd pleasing save by a sprinting Valeria Reyes and Brush saved the point. Regan passed for points, and Rice calmly served the final 2 points to clinch the win, 25-21.
The team joyfully shook hands with the visitors, and headed to the locker room.
Following the victory, Coach Kelley was ecstatic. “I’m just so proud of all of them,” she said, noting that the team’s strong serving was a nice surprise, with many athletes stringing multiple points.
The coach admitted there was plenty to work on. Communication can certainly be improved and there’s still hesitation about who should get the ball. But for a first outing, she was very pleased overall.
On Monday, December 18, the team showed that the East Moriches win was no fluke. Playing at Ross, the Islanders again went down to the wire, winning the tiebreaker for their second victory. The match focused more on playing the ball, with more extended rallies, instead of just serving. Several supportive parents made the trip, keeping others informed through messages.
The season is still young, but Coach Kelly is positive about the effort and improvement the team is showing. The next home match is Friday, January 5 against Center Moriches. Come see our young athletes in action!