It’s the fall sports season, and the Shelter Island gym is alive with the squeak of sneakers and the smack of volleyballs being served and hit.
Laura Mayo and I have 27 athletes under our tutelage, the biggest group we’ve ever had. Nine seniors, three juniors, nine sophomores and six freshmen are in the crew. The 9th graders are hot off their undefeated Jr. High season and are taking to the higher level High School game well.
The teams hit the court on Tuesday, Sept. 3 with a scrimmage at Center Moriches. The informal scrimmage format allows coaches to stop play at any time to allow for teaching and coaching. By running several different lineups, coaches can gauge the strength of players at different positions. Like all volleyball teams on Long Island, Center Moriches is a larger school. They are well coached and hit hard. We were pleased to have the chance to see tough serves and strong offense to test our athletes. And it didn’t hurt our confidence to win a few sets against the Devils.
Wednesday, Sept. 4 was the first day of school and the volleyball teams’ league opener against perennial powerhouse Mattituck. The gym was hot, with players needing to continually wipe their hands to keep the ball from slipping. There was a friendly home crowd to cheer on the teams.
JV shows its potential
With 15 athletes on the JV roster, Coach Mayo has lots of options. Currently, a few players are still becoming eligible to play, as well as learn the more complex formations and offense. Freshman captain Angelina Rice played JV last year, and her quick reactions and fearlessness as a passer make her a natural libero.
She also has nice hands and has been tapped to be one of the JV’s setters. Sophomore Franny Regan joins Rice as a captain and is another all-round athlete who can play at nearly any position.
Sophomore Bella Springer is a strong player and court leader, and seemingly unshakeable. When challenged with the prospect of jumping into the setting position just minutes before the first league game against Mattituck, she barely hesitated before running the court. I doubt anyone on the other side suspected a thing.
Grace Olinkiewicz and Lydia Shepherd are also experienced JV players. With so many new players on the squad, they’re a terrific resource as on-court coaches to calmly direct athletes to a correct serve/receive position or celebrate a good play.
Alex Burns is new to the high school game, but her steady serve and unflappable demeanor is great. Emma Martinez Madjisova played volleyball during her year abroad in Slovakia, and has shown nice ball control and serving abilities. Izzy Fonseca’s strong arm at the service line is a boon.
Myla Dougherty, new to the sport last year, has really come on as an athlete. She’s proven herself as a 6-position player, and a strong presence as a middle hitter and blocker. Classmate Lily Page has made a leap in confidence this year and become a good hitter.
Sophomore Kathy Ramos and first year players Margaret Schultheis, Mary Gennari, Andrea Napoles and Madigan Teodoru are continuing to work to get eligible to play, but include good servers, a potential setter and nice defensive players.
Mattituck won the closely contested JV match 25-22, 25-21 and 25-19. Coach Mayo is excited for the season. She said, “In our first contest against Center Moriches their energy and chemistry was amazing, which made it fun to watch and coach. When playing Mattituck, they were able to adjust to a very new situation without blinking an eye. I’m excited to see what they do for the rest of the season.”
Varsity exceeds expectations against Mattituck
In 2018, Mattituck won the League VIII title without much of a struggle. While Shelter Island fought hard, there was never any doubt who was the better team. In the first set on Sept. 4, the Tuckers definitely were resting on their laurels, thinking it would be an easy win.
Instead, the Islanders started strong, with our rejuvenated offense swinging from both the front and back row. Our fierce defense surprised the Tuckers. They’re known for a never-say-die attitude and we were matching them. When their coach called a timeout to refocus them, it felt as good as a victory. They did come back. An epic volley which ended with a 22-22 tie, had players hitting the ground, swinging from all over the court and fans gasping. The first set ended in a 25-23 win for Mattituck.
Sophomore Dayla Reyes has been tapped as the starting setter, but we have several people with good hands as well. Lyng Coyne, Maria Carbajal and Amelia Reiter also have the ability to put up a nice set. On one broken play, Dayla passed the ball to Maria, who pushed it outside to Valeria Reyes, who powered it down for a point.
The Island’s savvy players picked out a player who was having trouble receiving serve and kept putting the ball to her. Jane Richards is capable of spot serving, as is middle hitter Amelia Clark. Their increased volleyball IQ — analyzing various rotations and picking out weak spots — is a boon to the team.
Defense is much better this year. Seniors Lyng Coyne and Abby Kotula are sharing libero duties, the position reserved for the best defensive player on the team. Their ability to read developing plays and to calmly dig up hard-hit balls is great. While playing the hard-hitting Center Moriches team, Coyne positioned herself behind Lauren Gurney’s high-jumping block and twice in one rally frustrated their powerful outside hitter.
We’re working with players to get used to various rotations. Middle hitters Lauren Gurney and Amelia Clark shifted positions without a hitch, causing Mattituck to rethink their offense. Audrey Wood made her presence known in the third set of the Mattituck match, blocking two consecutive hits to the delight of her teammates. Teammates Isabelle Topliff, Jen Lupo and Amelia Reiter supported the team, with cheers and advice.
Mattituck ended up taking the match 25-23, 25-11, 25-11, but the score definitely doesn’t tell the whole story. Following the match, Frank Massa, Mattituck’s long-time coach, came over to the team huddle to congratulate the team on their all-out effort. With the Tuckers poised for repeat league champs, Shelter Island’s positive, hustling performance makes me extremely excited about the season ahead.