Both the boys and girls squads are in season with Coach Mike Mundy at the helm of the Shelter Island girls junior varsity team for his third season.
Although 13 athletes strong, the loss of a number of players to graduation means the team is in a rebuilding year. There is a mix of experienced players and girls trying the sport for the first time.
Seniors and Captains Madi Hallman and Bianca Evangelista are mentors for the younger players. Classmate Hayley Lowell-Liszanckie made the switch from track and cheering, and her speed is evident as she chases down opponents. Emily Strauss has also joined the team after a few seasons off.
Junior Nichole Hand is the leading scorer, and her aggressive rebounding is also a boon to the team. Sophomore Isabelle Topliff is a feisty player, aggressively defending and is a skilled ball hawk. Classmate Audrey Wood is tall and brings an inquisitive mind to the sport.
Ninth graders include Jane Richards, who is the heir apparent to Hallman as point guard. Lydia Shepherd and Grace Olinkiwicz bring their height and experience from the junior high program. Emma Teodoru is another speedy and scrappy defender.
Ashley Panteleon is trying out school sports since starting at the high school at the beginning of the year, and her athletic experience is making the transition to a new school easier. Bella Springer, an 8th grader, brings athleticism and willingness to learn.
In their first home game against Port Jefferson on December 21, the team was faced with a challenge. The Royals jumped out to a 16 point lead in the first quarter. Once the Islanders got a better handle on the zone defense and began rebounding more regularly, they began to keep pace with the visitors. Hand sank a basket and a foul shot to break the scoring drought in the second quarter.
The home team also stepped up its scrappy defense, but their shots just weren’t falling. Topliff added a bucket late in the stanza, and only a 3-point shot by Port Jeff at the buzzer let the Royals outscore the Islanders 8-5 before the half-time break.
Coach Mike Mundy is working to develop all the players and give them meaningful playing time to gain experience. With so many athletes on the roster, he can switch out the entire five athletes on the floor, putting fresh legs on the court. Topliff, Wood, Olinkiewicz, Shepherd and Hand started the third, with Wood showing her improving confidence in passing and understanding plays.
Olinkiewicz, one of the team’s top rebounders, was a spark, pulling down one of her game total three rebounds, keeping the ball out of the Royals hands, and immediately ran a fast break, pushing down the court and encouraging her teammates.
At the five minute mark, Evangelista, Springer, Lowell-Liszanckie, Hallman and Panteleon took the floor. Evangelista, often significantly shorter than her opponents, plays tough at center and caught an elbow to the face.
Frustrated, she sat on the sidelines with ice on her injury, but Emily Strauss took the chance to step in, helping the team with a rebound. Hand and Topliff combined for 5 points, nearly matching the Royals 7-point effort in the third.
In the fourth quarter Hand added 2 points, while an Evanglista assist to Lowell-Liszanckie resulted in a crowd-pleasing swish. The Islanders outscored the Royals 4-3 in the final quarter.
Despite the 14-34 loss, Hallman had a great perspective after the game, “It’s a rebuilding year. We are getting the younger girls experience, and I hope we can grow the program back to have both a varsity and JV squad in the future.”
Coach Mundy was philosophical about the 0-4 start to the season. The whole team is working hard and he is encouraged by the “huge improvement from Audrey, Lydia and Emma from the beginning of the season.”
Some alums were spotted in the stands supporting their former coach and teammates. Melissa Frasco, just home from her first semester at SUNY New Paltz, was glad to cheer on her friends on the court.
Domily Gil was home for a short break from the Army. She is headed to training before being deployed to Qatar, likely in February. She says she can now better understand former Marine Coach Mundy’s insistence on discipline and the importance of teamwork.
The team’s next home outing is January 4 at 4:30, against the Southold/Greenport Clippers.