The Shelter Island junior varsity volleyball team is making a statement. After zipping out to a record of 2-0 in the early season, the team dropped the next two matches. After a weekend to reflect, players stepped up their game, winning all three matches the last week of September.
On September 24 we visited Pierson. Their JV had just acquired a former varsity player that bolstered their ranks, but the Island was not intimidated. Myla Dougherty is growing greatly as a player and showed great blocking instincts and good swings, helping to win the first set. Pierson fought back to take the second set, setting up a tiebreaker.
Franny Regan stepped up her serving and Bella Springer also contributed some strong hitting. Allie Brush’s intimidating serves were just too much for the Whalers and the Blue and Gray took the match with a 25-20, 18-25, 25-19 showing.
On September 26 the Ross Cosmos came to visit. A JV only squad, they are a strong team, but we were ready to avenge their win from the previous week. There were long rallies, but libero Angelina Corbett-Rice remained calm under pressure and is good at staying home on defense, then moving to the ball.
Our focus in practice on ball control and smart “3rd ball over” plays paid dividends. Valeria Reyes in particular showed great court sense. Izzy Fonseca’s strong serves also grabbed some points.
The Island took the first two sets, ensuring the victory before Coach Laura Mayo put in an alternative line-up to give players a chance to play new positions. Lily Page was able to do a nice job working on transition to get off the net and available to hit. The Island prevailed 25-21, 25-12, and 19-25.
On September 28, Port Jefferson arrived. A well-coordinated team, they came in undefeated. However, our gym was filled with vocal fans and both teams were fired up.
Dayla Reyes was the main setter and a take-charge personality on the court. Kathy Ramos had a break out game with excellent serving and showed a nice ability to read the ball and chasing them down on defense.
Grace Olinkiewicz paired with Lydia Shepherd for an incredible save — a first shanked ball was touched by Grace, and Shepherd ran down the ball all the way to the bench and put it back over for the point!
The Blue and Gray took the first set 25-20 before dropping the second 26-28 in a very exciting “extra innings” game. Getting ready for the tiebreaker, the players huddled and encouraged each other.
The set started slowly for the home team, falling behind 3-9, with the Royals still in the lead at the court switch mid-way through the tiebreaker. But the Islanders kept their cool, and a V. Reyes set to Olinkiewicz tied the game 16-16. We reveled in the raucous atmosphere and won the third set and match 25-20, handing Port Jeff their first loss of the season.
The varsity team played two matches during the week of September 24, with a good showing at Pierson, and an up-and-down performance against Port Jefferson. Pierson, who was in the state final four last season for Class C, only lost 1 player from that championship squad. Despite the scores of 25-15, 25-20 and 25-16 loss, our team is beginning to generate more offense and had some good volleys with the Whalers.
Abby Kotula contributed nicely with her well-placed and hard serves. Isabelle Topliff is an undersized middle hitter, but she had some great blocks and hits during the match. Amelia Reiter and Audrey Wood each did some blocking on the front right side, while Maria Carbajal held down the defense in the back row.
The Whalers started cranking on some very tough serves in the third set and they jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Ella Mysliborski’s calm demeanor helped steady the team, and the Island got back on an even keel for the rest of the set, gaining the respect of the Pierson team.
When Port Jefferson arrived on September 28, our varsity had only eight players suited up. Three players were out sick, and Jennifer Lupo is out for the season with a sprained ankle. Lauren Gurney got a start at middle, while Nichole Hand and Jane Richards held down the outside. Amelia Clark brought some nice serves to bear, as did Lyng Coyne, who is able to target particular players.
Unfortunately, despite getting out to leads in all three sets, strong serving and hitting by Port Jeff forced us to gave up big runs of points. Despite seven kills by Hand, four aces by Clark, and a shift in the lineup to shake things up, we were unable to hang on to the lead, dropping the match 25-15, 25-21, 25-23.
Despite the final outcome, there are bright spots. A focus on aggressive serving is paying dividends. As our offense continues to mature, we’ll be able to set up our hitters and make critical plays at crucial moments.
With the second half of the season upon us, we’re looking forward to gaining confidence in one another and getting some wins.
JV’s next home game is 5 p.m. on October 5 against Wyandanch, and both squads face Mattituck on October 12 (JV at 4 p.m., varsity at 5:45 p.m.).