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Words to play volleyball by — Team shows stellar play in road tournament

Members of the Shelter Island volleyball team greeting the dawn on a ferry travelling to the Bayport Blue Point tournament.

On Saturday, Sept. 21, Shelter Island volleyball got up early to take part in the Bayport Blue Point varsity tournament. Eleven players boarded an early ferry, admired the sunrise, and set their sights on playing well, having fun and working hard.

Tournaments are great to gain playing experience and bond as a team. In a 12-team tournament that featured teams from every league from I to VIII, as well as from Long Beach in Nassau County, Shelter Island was the lone Class D team, facing two AA schools as well as host Class B Bayport Blue Point (BBP), which went to the State Final Four last season. We played 8 sets against four opponents. Scores were competitive and the play was quite good.

Overall the day was a terrific success. We met in a happy huddle after finishing playing, and

I asked each player to use one word to describe the day.

“Amazing:” Jen Lupo is always a positive force on the team, and after being on the court against the big teams, she once again showed her willingness to step into any situation and make it fun. Audrey Wood and Amelia Clark had the hard job of being the main blockers on the team. Focusing and following the tougher offenses made them stretch their games, making them proud of their contributions to the team.

“Comebacks:” Being in a loud, semi-chaotic tournament takes some getting used to. Club players Jane Richards, and Dayla and Valeria Reyes, have learned to tune out the whistles that aren’t on your court, and the cheers that didn’t correspond to your actions, and that concentration benefits all players. In the final set of the day against Half Hollow Hills West (HHHW), we made a 5-point run to pull within one point of winning before a somewhat questionable call by the official ended the set in HHHW’s favor.

“Educational:” Having the opportunity to play and see multiple matches helps players detect patterns, look for tell-tale signs of where and how someone will hit, and adjust to playing styles. Lauren Gurney had the chance to take on the role of middle and outside hitter.

Normally a front row player, she had the chance to play defense as well as get experience hitting different types of sets.

“Exciting:” Watching Valeria Reyes play defense is really fun. She’s in constant motion, energizing her teammates and making miraculous saves. Jane Richards is one of the captains and is the player most likely to gather the team in a congratulatory or conciliatory circle after a point. Her enthusiasm and love for the game is contagious and a joy to watch.

“Exhilarating:” Seeing bigger and stronger teams run great plays is inspiring. BBP and East Islip had strong hitters, and we could imagine what we might be able to do. Angie Rice was able to dig up some very tough hits, letting the freshman know that she can compete at this level.

“Fierce:” Dayla Reyes is a setter and it’s her ferocious determination to get to the ball and put up a set which singles her out. She played every point of every game, running the court the entire day. Captain Maria Carbajal is an unassuming player and likely overlooked by opponents, but you can count on her to be doing the right thing at the right time. Her steady serving, stepping in to set the ball on broken plays or hitting an unexpected right-side ball all require fierce concentration and awareness.

“Intense:” Abby Kotula and Lyng Coyne took on the big hitters, digging up the hardest hits we’ve seen all season. They barely flinched, hitting the floor in all-out efforts to keep the play going.

We again received compliments from the officials, as well as the other coaches. “Wow, your girls are scrappy!” exclaimed one official. Another coach admired Dayla Reyes’s athletic setting style and her willingness to take calculated risks while running the offense.

This team is fun to watch and a pleasure to coach. Come see them in action and see the “words of the day” in person.

Upcoming home games: Monday, Sept. 23, The Ross School. JV 4 p.m. Varsity 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 25, Port Jefferson. JV 4:30 p.m. Varsity 6:15 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 4, Babylon. JV 4:30 p.m. Varsity 6:15 p.m. DIG PINK MATCH — Breast Cancer awareness fundraiser.