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Volleyball girls can take the heat

Shelter Island volleyball is back and the teams are on the right track.
Shelter Island volleyball is back and the teams are on the right track.

In action since August 20, Shelter Island’s volleyball team has 24 athletes between the varsity and JV squad, with the potential of two others joining now that school is in session.

This is by far the highest number of athletes we’ve had in the gym in years. With “Big Sisters” and “Little Sisters” paired between varsity and JV, we are also enjoying a positive, supportive learning environment.

When coaches prepare for the season, we put together conditioning and skills goals, contemplate which athletes will contribute best at what level and seek out challenging but realistic goals. What we don’t plan on is Mother Nature throwing us multiple curve balls in the form of full heat advisories.

For the safety of athletes, when the heat index reaches 95, no physical activity in any sport is permitted. This county-wide rule resulted in four cancelled practices and caused our first contest to be rescheduled three times.

The off-and-on practice schedule has made it difficult to build momentum and accomplish some team concepts. But Coach Laura Mayo and I have been pleased with the enthusiasm and progress of the volleyball team thus far.

On September 8, we kicked off the competitive season against the Red Devils of Center Moriches here on the Island.

The junior varsity team was excited with nervous laughter preceding the match as we waited for our opponents to arrive. Dayla Reyes has been tapped to be the setter and once the inaugural match was underway, her blazing serves got the home team out to a quick 5-0 lead.

Lydia Shepherd’s experience on the court helped calm the young team and Allie Brush’s serves also helped boost confidence. Valeria Reyes served the last 2 points for the Blue and Gray to hold off a surging Devils’ comeback, winning 25-23.

In the second set, Myla Dougherty got her first volleyball start. As a middle hitter, her speed and jumping ability will be very beneficial. Bella Springer’s athleticism also helped steady the team and 8th grader Angelina Rice’s fast feet and quick reflexes confounded the Devils’ attacks. The Island’s serving is strong this year; birthday girl Grace Olinkiewicz sealed the match victory with two aces to win, 25-14.

Junior Varsity volleyball always plays 3 sets, even if a team has won the match by taking the first two. With the victory in hand, the third set was a bonus. Kathy Ramos, inspired by the volleyball movie “The Miracle Season,” had drawn eyes on her hands to inspire the team. Franny Regan’s speed was evident as she made a great save.

Isabella Fonsca’s strong serves put the Devils on their heels, stretching our lead to 21-7. Despite a nice run by a strong Center Moriches server, the home team easily took the last set, 25-15.

The joyful team gathered around a beaming Coach Mayo. The young squad is off to a strong start.

Because Bishop McGann-Mercy has closed and the Stony Brook School has moved to a private school league, League VIII looks different this year. Center Moriches and Babylon are Class B schools and Mattituck joins Port Jefferson, Greenport/Southold and Pierson/Bridgehampton in Class C.

Shelter Island remains the only Class D on Long Island. We have always played larger schools, but the size disparity is larger than ever this year.