Coaches always hold their breath during the first game back after a break.
Although the girls junior high volleyball team had a few practices over the holiday vacation, some players were away visiting family and hadn’t touched a ball in two weeks. It wasn’t until late in the third set of the first game back that Coach Taylor Anderson could really exhale.
On January 3, Greenport Gold visited Shelter Island. The first time these teams met, Greenport was unprepared and Shelter Island swept them in three straight. But the Greenport girls have improved significantly since then, trying to use three hits to set up an attack, a sign of a maturing team.
During the first set, the two teams played evenly early on. Madigan Teodoru’s deceptive and difficult to return serve helped score 3 points before a strong-armed Greenport player scored 9 straight points to open up a 19-12 lead. But the Island girls refused to fold. Cassie Espinosa Heimann responded with six serves. Margaret Schultheis had some hustling saves, sliding on her knees to get to the ball, and Katie Gulluscio chipped in a nice serve.
As a 7th grader, Sophie Clark is already showing she has the mobility, smarts and strong hands needed in the pivotal role of setter. She tricked Greenport with a nice backset over the net, catching them flatfooted, and clinching the 25-23 come-from-behind win.
During the second set, good serves were in short supply for the Island. Out of 15 serves, only eight went over, compared to Greenport’s 20 out of 25 effort. However, there were bright spots. Harper Congdon is improving her serves, scoring an ace. Andrea Napoles is quiet, but vocal at the right times, calling the ball as she receives serve. She is also developing a consistent serve, scoring 3 points at the end of the set, which Greenport won 25-15.
The third set was a tie breaker. The winning team would take the match. There are a few protocols that newer volleyball parents are still learning — a new coin flip to determine the serving team and switching sides at 13. Alex Burns was at the service line at the switch, but she ignored the brief break and continued scoring points for the home team.
Mary Gennari’s leadership on the court paid dividends as she saw the opportunity to set a ball back over to the Greenport side, and placed it nicely in an undefended spot. Maia Loizance passed a serve back over and it dropped for a point. Madi Springer stepped to the line, looking nervous, but Coach Anderson encouraged her: “Just like last time. You got it.”
And get it she did — three aces later Shelter Island had a 25-10 win, clinching the match.
Following the match, Coach Anderson praised the team’s poise and improvement. “The team has been showing very nice growth in their skills during the season,” she said, “with the 7th graders especially picking up their game.”
Coach Anderson added that the team now has a new goal: to go undefeated. Their record is currently 6-0, with three to play. Getting those last three wins will be a challenge, since all three are against Mattituck squads. The Tuckers are known for their consistently strong teams, and their training starts early. But this group of Island athletes are having fun while playing well, so it should be great to watch the battles.
The next home game is January 10 at 4 p.m. against Mattituck Gold, and their final home game is January 16 against Mattituck Blue. Come see our girls in action!