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Road warriors bring home victories: Long road trips don’t faze volleyball girls

Student athletes need good time management, and it was never clearer than this past week.

The Shelter Island junior varsity volleyball team played four matches, and two were away games with long  trips of two-hour rides each way. The JV ended up with three wins and one loss, while varsity won both of their matches.

The marathon started on St. Patrick’s Day with both teams headed to Babylon. We have a love/hate relationship with the Panthers. The long bus ride is draining, but we get to play against Coach Brenda Mayo, Coach Laura Mayo’s mom, who is Babylon’s JV coach. The Panthers are gracious hosts: They supplied us with pizza after the game, a favor we will return when they visit on April 7.

Our varsity played first, and it proved to be a long 5-set match. The varsity’s ranks have been thinned by injury, with three players currently sidelined. Luckily, we’ve focused on training versatile athletes, and things worked out well. 

We’re working to run a faster offense this year, and Dayla Reyes is reveling in spreading the ball out among our hitters. Angelina Rice is the lynch pin in our defense, digging up 15 of Babylon’s hits, and playing a leading role in serve receive. Although it took longer than this coach wanted, we got the 24-26, 25-22, 25-18, 22-25, 25-22 win.

The JV team’s members, who sat through that long match after the extended bus ride, didn’t play up to their potential, dropping all three sets to the Panthers.

After the long night at Babylon, the JV team arrived at the Shelter Island gym the next day excited to improve on their uninspired performance. The opponent was Wyandanch, a JV-only team, meaning that seniors and juniors are on the squad. They have a distinct style of playing — everything comes back in one hit. The returns are fast, and teams that are used to the more advanced style of 3-hits-play can often be thrown off. But Coach Mayo had prepared the team well, and they stuck to the game plan.

The quick returns were passed, set up, then attacked. Shelter Island played its game, and didn’t resort to frustration or nerves. The strategy worked, and tough serving helped seal the 25-14, 25-17, 25-12 win. Coach Mayo was extremely proud of her team’s resilience.

Section 11 realigned leagues this year to provide a more equitable structure for the larger AA & A schools. There are now only six leagues instead of eight. But, by making it better for the larger schools, the small school League VI now includes Class B, C, and D teams. Southampton is new to our league, and the largest school. As it turns out, size does not predict strength.

Saturday, March 20 started out slowly for the varsity squads. Both Southampton and the Islanders served poorly, with over a dozen missed serves in the first set. Shaking off the uncharacteristic sloppy play, the team started getting back to our level of play.

Jane Richards saw a tough set and tipped it, mixing up the offense. Lily Page and Franny Regan both covered hitters well, and hit well themselves. Lily hit a quick set from the middle, resulting in a quick celebration. Franny cut her right side hit down the line to a wide-open portion of the court.

Bella Springer was fierce at the net, hitting down several overpasses. Myla Dougherty is also loving the newer offense, and her quick reflexes on broken plays is invaluable.

Izzy Fonseca’s serves are increasingly fast and difficult to return. The well-spread offense was great to see.

Valeria Reyes was the top hitter of the day, and with 94% serving efficiency, including 3 aces, she also shone from the serving line.

In the end, the Islanders handily topped the Mariners 25-14, 25-19, and 25-13.

The JV eagerly took the court, and showed their continued improvement against Southampton. Tough serving continues to be a trademark of this squad with Mary Gennari, Alex Burns, Margaret Schultheis and Harper Congdon all scoring aces.

Their defense was also impressive.

Olivia Overstreet is all over the court, often going to the floor to make a save. Ariana Carter is showing great timing on her blocks, while Andrea Napoles’ quick reflexes resulted in a nice save off a deflected block.

Kaitlyn Gulluscio and Mackenzie Speece-Langendal are often counted on to serve, but both saw action in the front row as well.

Madigan Teodoru is really shining as the libero, conscientiously following the ball to the line to be certain it is in or out. Sophie Clark continues to be a strong presence at the net, and Madison Springer’s energetic setting sets the tone for the whole team.

A come-from-behind victory in the second set ensured the match win, so Coach Mayo was able to mix positions a bit in the final frame, giving athletes the chance to step out of their comfort zones. The final scores were 25-15, 25-23, 25-16 — a nice sweep.

In their final action of the week, the JV squad traveled to Smithtown Christian on March 22. Although bus fatigue caused them to drop the first set, they stormed back strongly to win the final two to win the match.

The teams are nearly half-way through the condensed season. They will face Port Jefferson on March 24 at home, followed by back-to-back road trips to Mattituck and Center Moriches on March 26 and 27.