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Island volleyball teams playing strong in early season

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO All for one. The varsity volleyball team are one for all.
All for one. The varsity volleyball team are one for all.

Shelter Island volleyball version 2018 is stronger than 2017. We have more players and a more reliable offense. Our servers are good and defense is relatively unshakable.

However, the reality is that League VIII looks stronger overall as well. On September 13, the Greenport/Southold Clippers came to town. They’ve had a decent team that just couldn’t get into the win column in the past two years.

They are now more well-rounded and are finally believing they deserve to win. With tough serving and a very strong middle hitter, they did just that, beating the Shelter Island varsity in three sets, 25-20, 25-20 and 25-17.

That being said, the Island team looked far better than they did at the September 8 season opener against Center Moriches. With all athletes available for this match, we focused on stopping the middle threat and a new blocking scheme emerged — a double block forced the visitors to change their attack.

Amelia Clark came up big in the blocking department, leading the charge in the middle. Isabelle Topliff also played tough, getting three kills under difficult circumstances.

Junior Lyng Coyne is making the shift from defensive specialist to setter this year, but her fast feet and willingness to lay it out for the ball resulted in two great saves in the second set. A tip by Nichole Hand, a chase down by Ella Mysliborski and a strong, calm save from Jane Richards more than 40 feet from the net also stunned the Clippers. Unfortunately, we missed four serves, which is hard to overcome against such a closely matched opponent.

As we gain more experience this season, some specialty players are emerging. Maria Carbajal has pretty hands and a very reliable serve and is our backup setter. Amelia Reiter is a tall lefty, perfect for setting a large block against the rival strong outside hitters. They make an effective pair on the right side.

The junior varsity has a statement to make. They are young and athletic and have won both league games so far. Against the visiting Greenport/Southold Clippers on September 13 they served and hustled their way to a 25-18, 25-10 and 25-21 win. The third set win looks unremarkable, without knowing the details. Coach Laura Mayo is developing all her athletes, and after the match win was assured, she mixed it up in the third set.

Valeria Reyes normally is the back-up setter, and several other players are either back or front row specialists. In this set, Valeria was the main setter, and the other players all played all the way around and served. A little confusion and a strong server allowed the Clippers to get out to 13-0 lead. But the Island girls fought back.

Franny Regan served the first of her seven aces of the day to creep up to 15-3. Strong defensive moves and confidence born of playing many seasons of sports together began to take hold, and the JV came roaring back to first tie it at 21-21, then win 25-21. There was a definite study in contrast on the court: the stunned Clippers and the jubilant Blue and Gray. These girls are going places.

While the sunrise on Saturday, September 15 wasn’t that pretty, the varsity volleyball and cross country teams enjoyed each other’s company as they boarded the 6 a.m. ferry on their way to respective invitationals. The volleyball team sported their new light blue hoodies, which proved very valuable in the cool Eastport South Manor school.

A full-day tournament allowed us to try different lineups, and see how we fared against much larger schools.

The day started slowly against East Hampton — eventual winners of the tournament — but confidence grew throughout the day. Lauren Gurney is making great strides as a middle hitter and blocker. Audrey Wood also is improving her presence in the middle, starting in the rematch against Center Moriches, while Jen Lupo stood her ground against a tough Red Devils server. JV player Lydia Shepherd also got time on the court.

Shoreham Wading River was tall and hit well, but we held our own, setting us up for a great match against Ward Melville. Ward has a perennially strong program, but the Island came out ready to fight. Ella Mysliborski and Maria Carbajal dug in against their very strong hitters and Nichole Hand swung hard. While Ward Melville ended up taking both sets, they called time outs — a huge victory and morale boost for little Shelter Island.

We didn’t get back to the Island until 12 hours after we left, but in between there was sweat and laughter, pizza and energy balls — and a great day of playing and bonding for Shelter Island volleyball.

The JV’s next home game is Wednesday, September 26 against Ross. Both squads see Port Jefferson on Friday, September 28. Come catch the action!