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Volleyball varsity eyes post season

When Shelter Island volleyball teams play, two things can be counted on — they will play all out, and the other coach will make a comment on what nice kids they are and/or how much they hustle. Both were true for the Greenport/Southold matches on Oct. 17 and also at the Pierson tournament on Oct. 19.

The JV team continues to dominate in League VIII. At the start of the match against Greenport, that prowess looked a little shaky when they missed 10 serves in the first set. But Captain Franny Regan is turning into a great on-court coach, directing players to spots on serve receive. Mary Gennari is confidently stepping in to set. Emma Martinez Majdisova, Angie Rice and Bella Springer bucked the missed serve trend and served aces.

Unfortunately, the 10 give-away points were too much to overcome and the Island lost the first set 25-22.

The team buckled down in the second stanza. Lydia Shepherd took charge on the court, deftly sending a tough freeball over. Coach Laura Mayo designed a line-up with Izzy Foncesa, Lily Page and Margaret Schulthies’s defensive skills complementing Emma Martinez Majdisova and Andrea Napoles’s work at the net. Their hustling and hard work paid off, with Myla Dougherty’s ace capping the 25-17 win.

“You girls certainly keep it interesting,” commented Coach Mayo as they started the final tie breaker set. The team pulled through. Grace Olinkiewicz took swings at net, scoring with an off-speed shot. Kathy Ramos’s spinning serves scored points. Madi Teodoru’s calm demeanor on defense resulted in great passing. Alex Burns helped from the service line. Setter Bella Springer had fun moving sets around, involving many hitters. The third set was a 25-18 win.

That win was the junior varsity team’s ninth in a row, bringing their record to 11-2.

The varsity’s Oct. 17 match against the Clippers was highly anticipated. The Greenport/Southold team and the Island have tracked each other all season, both entering the contest at 4-5. Whoever won would be at .500, with two matches to play. An even record guarantees a team a spot in the playoffs, something both teams have missed the past two years.

The Greenport gym is difficult to play in. The off-center court puts fans far away, and the lines are hard to see. Undeterred, in the first set, Maria Carbajal took over the game by serving 11 points in a row. Jane Richards supplemented that effort with an excellent hit down the line, and Amelia Clark was active at the net, blocking the aggressive Clipper attack. The Island took the first set 25-22.

However, the Clippers are not to be underestimated. Lauren Gurney’s timing as a blocker is very good, and she also killed an overpass, as the Clipper defenders ducked from the powerful blast. Valeria Reyes has really powered up her attack with her booming hits turning heads. Audrey Wood has improved her net play this year, making a nice save off a block then registering a kill in the same rally. Despite the effort, the Clippers took the next two 25-16 and 25-14. During the third set, the opposing setter’s tough serves got our serve receivers rattled. Jen Lupo, the ever observant and positive player rallied the team, keeping their spirits up.

The fourth set was much more evenly played, but the Clippers defense wouldn’t let down. Dayla Reyes’s excellent setter dumps were picked up and despite Abby Kotula’s excellent serving, the Clippers took the last set 25-21.

After the loss, the team was disappointed. It wasn’t until I looked at our stats that I saw what a good game it really was. The Clippers offense has strengthened, and their servers are tough. We racked up 27 kills in four sets, and Valeria Reyes hit a season high 11 kills. Our earned points, those that we actively win by aces, kills or other positive actions have continued to climb throughout the season. It’s nice to get points when the other team makes a mistake, but earning our points shows we are progressing as a team.

The next day the team showed up to practice, ready to work hard. I had planned a shorter session, but when we got to the planned end time, every athlete wanted to continue to play. I was smiling the whole time as the players’ enthusiasm extended practice for an additional 30 minutes. That is commitment and a true love of the game.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, at the varsity Pierson tournament, we saw several familiar faces: the Ross School, Greenport, Hampton Bays and host Pierson. At tournaments we generally bring a few of the more experienced JV players and experiment with different lineups and get everyone some playing time. Angie Rice, Lydia Shepherd and Bella Springer made the trip and all made an impact.

Springer is the JV setter, but can also hit. She replaced starting varsity setter Dayla Reyes for a set to run the offense. Lydia is tall and can also set the ball, so she fit well at the right front. With Maria Carbajal and Abby Kotula both missing for the tourney, Angie Rice’s excellent defense and tough serving was much appreciated. Lyng Coyne did a great job as she bore the brunt of most of the defense load, donning the grey libero shirt for the day.

Amelia Reiter had a break-out day at the tournament. Playing at both middle and right, she was a force at the net, totaling five stuff blocks on the day, along with many other blocked balls that were dug up by the other team.

The play was practically non-stop, and at the end of the day the tired but happy team gathered in a circle to share their highlights of the day. Confidence and team work were the clear winners, and the team is ready to head into their last week of regular season competition, with their eyes on the post-season.

The final home game for both squads will be Wednesday, October 23 against Pierson. Come cheer on the teams and wish our seniors farewell.