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Volleyball players looking sharp in early going

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If defense wins championships, Shelter Island varsity volleyball is headed for a great season.

In the September 9 Babylon and September 11 Greenport matches, long volleys with spectacular saves were the highlight of 5-set marathons.

With seniors Lyng Coyne and Abby Kotula anchoring the serve receive and defense with their fearless pursuit and steady nerves, our passing is quite strong. This allows setter Dayla Reyes to make a selection of outside, middle or right side sets and makes our offense less predictable.

The trip to Babylon is long: nearly two hours each way. When we arrived, we noticed that basketball hoops, although cranked up out of the way, still were situated over the court. That meant we had to control serve receive extra tightly. We started strongly, with a 25-22 win in the first set. But overconfidence stepped in, allowing the Panthers to take the next two sets 25-20 and 25-11.

Isabelle Topliff is a versatile player and I put her in at middle to give us more offense. As a team, we set intermediate goals of reaching certain point values before the other team. Topliff proved to be a spark plug, leading the way to a turn-around of 25-21 and 25-17, giving us the league victory. Topliff ended the match with five kills, while Jane Richards and Amelia Clark added four apiece. Sisters Dayla and Valeria Reyes shone from the serving line with six and four aces respectively.

We got two compliments from the officials. One noticed the friendliness and good sportsmanship of our Island athletes. The other complimented the team on its ability and determination to attack the ball whenever possible.

On Wednesday, Sept. 11, we welcomed the Greenport/Southold Clippers to our gym. The Clippers are a good match with us, and another 5-set match highlighted our strengths and areas for improvement.

The visiting team started hot, getting out to a 7-point lead. A quick time-out steadied us and Topliff’s tough serving and Clark’s kills kept us in the race. Greenport’s talented setter and tall middle presented an intimidating block, but the Islanders maintained their composure, mixing up the offense. Jane Richards’ tough serving allowed us to score 8 straight points and we surged to a 25-22 first set win.

That streaky style of scoring dominated the match. In the second set Greenport was able to string their serves and took the second set 25-16. In the third set, the Clippers’ big hitter started getting hot and Amelia Reiter was sent in with her strong block and made an immediate, booming impact. With Jen Lupo in the lead, the bench erupted with joy. Volleyball is a game of momentum, and we won the third set 25-15.

Lauren Gurney and Audrey Wood are tall players who present good blocks in the middle. Maria Carbajal is a steady, calm influence on the court, and she made an impact with three service aces and several hits from the right side.

In the fourth game the teams played evenly to mid-set; then Greenport turned up their serving and hitting, scoring 7 straight points to put the game out of reach at 25-15.

This group of athletes does not say die. With Valeria Reyes still swinging hard, and scoring a team-high eight kills, we stayed within striking distance before three consecutive errors ended the match. Not the outcome we were looking for, but we are undaunted, and will be working hard to come out on top in our next match at Port Jefferson on Sept. 20.

The JV team’s big roster is proving to be flexible and they are learning fast. At Babylon, the long bus ride showed, with the first set dropped 25-7. That low energy and serve receive confusion was quickly shaken off. Angie Rice made a great pass to setter Bella Springer and Grace Olinkiewicz put it down for a kill. The entire team celebrated with a coordinated cheer and enthusiastic support from the bench. Lydia Shepherd took charge on the court, adding three kills of her own. Emma Martinez Madjisova served up eight aces, and we took the set 25-23, setting up the tiebreaker. Isabella Fonseca added two aces as Lily Page called the ball and put the ball over patiently. On a roll, the Islanders didn’t stop until the match was won, 25-15.

An enthusiastic Coach Laura Mayo cheered, “Now you are playing Shelter Island Volleyball. I love seeing how you didn’t give up. Way to fight!”

The sense of learning and growing continued during the Sept. 11 Greenport/Southold game. Martinez Majdisova served the team out to an 11-1 lead. The team had been working hard on putting freeballs over the net, and it showed by way of points earned. The first set was won 25-16.

In the second set, Mary Gennari stepped to the service line and immediately earned an ace on her first high school serve. Margaret Schultheis also got into her first game, tracking down balls in the back row. Alex Burns served an ace to win the set, 25-21.

In the third set, all 11 eligible players got on the court. With athletes playing in new positions, communication was crucial. Olinkiewicz was a hawk at the net, blocking and hitting overpasses. Myla Dougherty served an ace to seal the sweep, 25-16.

With the JV now comfortable with using three hits, their confidence and ball control will begin to expand. Come see the teams in action in their next home match against Ross on Monday, September 23. JV plays at 4 p.m., the varsity at 5:45 p.m.