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Volleyball girls inspire the Island

Rising up for Breast Cancer Awareness. Shelter Island volleyball players Lyng Coyne, left, and Audrey Wood at the “Dig Pink” event and game October 19.

As you entered Shelter Island’s gym doors on October 19 there was a big sign: “Dig Pink.” It wasn’t announcing a pastel ditch excavation party.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the volleyball community takes it seriously. Dig Pink is a fundraising event that takes place across the nation, in high school as well as college gyms. Started by a Virginia volleyball coach whose mother had breast cancer, the Side Out Foundation funds research for stage IV cancer.

Shelter Island has participated for 11 years and 2018 was the most successful by far.

The bleachers were wrapped in pink streamers and decorated with large pink flowers. The lack of balloons was a conscious decision by the environmentally minded team. A concession stand was filled with pink treats of many kinds and there was a raffle featuring donated items from generous businesses around town.

The Shelter Island team wore bright pink jerseys instead of their traditional blue and gray. There was even a chance to buy “ribbons” honoring people who are fighting breast cancer.

Junior Varsity Coach Laura Mayo counted the donations following the event — over $1,100. Her mother’s Babylon team raised under $150. So, Shelter Island won this version of the Battle of the Mayos.

Before the varsity match, School Superintendent Christine Finn announced that the entire volleyball team, both varsity and JV squads, had won the weekly “Decency” award, recognizing acts of kindness and encouraging people to treat everyone with respect. It was a fitting honor for the evening as the young athletes are learning to pay-it-forward through their Dig Pink work.

During this event-filled day we also celebrated our seniors. Captain Nichole Hand has played for four years, while classmate Ella Mysliborski played for the Island in the 9th grade, before transferring to Bishop McGann-Mercy, then back to the Island for her senior year. The funny and touching tributes by Angelina Corbett-Rice and Isabelle Topliff for Ella, and Jane Richards and Amelia Reiter for Nichole, were a highlight before the varsity game.

Abby Kotula and Amelia Clark also sang the national anthem. The perfectly harmonized duet touched a normally curmudgeonly official who murmured, “That was astounding.”

The Pierson Whalers were in town for the evening. The JV match was a serving showcase for the Island. Allie Brush served eight in a row, Valeria Reyes had six, and Franny Regan added five. The first set was a quick 25-8 win. The second set started in a similar fashion with Dayla Reyes getting us out to a 8-0 lead. Myla Dougherty’s quick reflexes got her a kill while Kathy Ramos blocked a Whaler for a point.

Grace Olinkiewicz also actively patrolled the net, intimidating the Whaler offense.

The second set was a 25-16 victory. In the bonus third set, the hometown team got a little lackadaisical. Down 3-10, we started a comeback. Lily Page held down the net responsibilities while Izzy Fonseca’s quick feet provided nice defense. Valeria Reyes also helped spark the team and the final score was 25-23, a clean sweep for the Blue and Gray.

The next morning, four JV players accompanied the varsity team to Sag Harbor for a tournament of seven teams, four of which we had seen in previous matches.

Tournaments are often a time for coaches to mix up lineups and mix it up we did. We used eight different lineups and all but one included JV players. The opposing coaches had to look long and hard at our players to pick out the JV athletes.

Valeria and Dayla Reyes and Angie Corbett-Rice all earned several multiple service aces and displayed nerves of steel in defense against tough varsity hits. Bella Springer was aggressive at the net, both swinging and putting up blocks.

We played well against tough competition. Close sets against Southampton and Hampton Bays showed the growth of the team. In the second set against Hampton Bays, Lauren Gurney showed she was up to the task of playing the full rotation as an outside hitter, digging up a hard hit which dropped on the opponent’s side for a point. Jane Richards denied a point by a full-out, on-the-floor save.

A strong second set against Pierson helped revenge the lackluster effort of the evening before. Richards showcased her leap as she blocked an overpass for a point and Amelia Clark likewise excited the bench as she killed overpass.

Against Class AA Bellport, which had the hardest hitting offense we’ve seen this year, we held our own in the first set. In the final game of the day, setter Lyng Coyne went down with a sprained ankle. After running our offense all year, we will need the hands of Maria Carbajal and Amelia Reiter to get across the finish line.

The highlight of the day was a win over Greenport/Southold. In league matches we’ve played well against the Clippers, but hadn’t taken a match win. In the short tournament format, we played well. Abby Kotula chased down a shanked pass deep to the wall and Maria Carbajal put it over the net to put us up 13-12. Nichole Hand cranked up her jump serve forcing a timeout. Amelia Reiter blocked a shot with authority, spurring a “Roooof!” call by her teammates and coaches.The team was tired but happy by the end of the day.

With the tournament fresh in our minds and just one match left, we are well-tuned to one another’s playing styles. We’ll all need to play our best to make up for the loss of Coyne while she is out recovering from her injured ankle. But we hope to get a victory against Port Jefferson. It would be a great cap to the season.