Shelter Island volleyball had a new look in 2017.
We lost seven players to graduation in June, leaving only three returning varsity players. Laura Mayo took over the reins of the junior varsity team from Jim Theinert, a three-year veteran of the position. On the books it looked like a rebuilding year, but the varsity matched its record from 2016, and the JV was stronger than the previous year.
More importantly, the consensus of this season, from both coaches and players alike, was that it was fun and that everyone truly enjoyed improving their individual and team skills.
The varsity, although showing its youth with somewhat uneven play, especially at the start of the season, was competitive, taking at least one set from every league team we faced. That included taking a set from the undefeated league champion Stony Brook Bears, and two from the Suffolk County Class C champion Pierson Whalers, who went to the State Final Four. Several of the other matches could have gone either way as well.
The eight varsity players showed leadership throughout the season, inspiring the younger athletes to stretch themselves to be the best they could be. Individuals on both squads showed flexibility and the ability to play out of their comfort zone as injuries forced players to take on new roles. Those experiences will pay dividends next year.
We had fun competing against as well as cheering on other teams. Tournaments were especially fun: catching a ferry at sunrise which led to long days of playing interspersed with dance parties, sharing delicious cookies and team bonding.
Senior Sarah Lewis and junior Nichole Hand were honored with All League awards, and Sarah also earned an All County Academic award. The varsity received the League VIII Sportsmanship Award, an honor that I prize. We will miss our graduating seniors: Sarah Lewis, Pheobe Starzee and Caitlin Binder, but know that our younger players are waiting to step up to fill their shoes.
Shelter Island volleyball 2017 was a class act, but most importantly we lived and breathed our team motto (and Jane Richards’s favorite saying): “Play well and have fun.”