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Playing hard but coming up short: Volleyball teams face tough squads

Extraordinary effort sometimes leads to a disappointing result.

The Shelter Island varsity volleyball team faced two strong opponents back-to-back on March 26 and 27. Despite playing excellent volleyball with the best defensive efforts of the season, the  team still came away with losses to league-leading Mattituck and a much-improved Center Moriches squad.

One way to measure the strength of an opponent is to see how many digs (or dig errors) we had against them. A dig occurs when the opponent hits or spikes a ball and the defending team successfully keeps it in play. A dig error results in a point for the other team.

Weaker teams tend to generate fewer attacks. For example, we had a total of 21 digs and 6 dig errors against Southampton, a team we beat with relative ease. Against Mattituck we had 45 digs and 16 dig errors. At Center Moriches, which featured several long and exciting rallies, we had 50 digs and 11 errors.

The fearless, tenacious trio of Jane Richards, Valeria Reyes and Angelina Rice face down the vast majority of the hits that elude our blockers.

Mattituck featured the hardest hits we had seen all season. While it took us a little time to adjust to the speed of the game against the Tuckers, the team also showed that we have upped our offense as well. Middle hitter Lily Page connected with setter Dayla Reyes for a “quick” hit, a more advanced offense. Lydia Shepherd and Izzy Fonseca are proving to be excellent front row and back row counterparts.

Lydia’s height helps in setting a more intimidating block, while Izzy’s tough serves and defense are valuable on defense.

The team was proud of their resilience in the face of the toughest hits we have seen all season. Mattituck’s offense proved too difficult to overcome, and they swept the match 25-12, 25-18, 25-16.

However, that experience prepared us well for Center Moriches less than 24 hours later. The Devils gained the services of their starting setter, who was unavailable in their first match, and their hitters were more fine-tuned than when we saw them at the start of the month.

Our hometown Islanders are also continuing to improve. Franny Regan has grown a great deal in her confidence and ferocity in her role on the right side. She is quick to call to be set, and also has excellent defensive skills.

Myla Dougherty is reveling in blocking and she had a break-out match with her smart hitting.

Bella Stringer is a strong and versatile athlete, and she is quick to take charge in a broken play. She’s mainly playing middle this year, and her willingness to be ready as a back-up setter is valued.

The Center Moriches match was very competitive, with back and forth lead changes, especially in the second set. The Devils came away with the win 25-18, 26-24, and 25-21.

The junior varsity team also faced the Tuckers and Red Devils, with similar outcomes. At the JV level, serves and serve receive can really make or break the game. The Friday, March 26 Mattituck game started with an excellent pass by Olivia Overstreet, a nice set by Madison Springer and a kill by Mary Gennari. However, a tough server was able to score several points in a row, and the team was unable to recover.

Coach Laura Mayo challenged her team to focus a bit more in the second set. Alex Burns obliged by serving three consecutive aces and Ariana Carter hit down an overpass for an exciting point.

Margaret Schutheis hustled to save an errant ball, and the back and forth game kept the team on the edge of our seats until Mattituck pulled out the “overtime” 26-24 win.

In the third set Coach Mayo loves to mix things up to allow athletes to try new roles. Andrea Napoles blocked an overpass and also served tough, and the third set was a 25-22 Islander win.

The Center Moriches match was a tough one. The Red Devils are a talented team with very strong serves. Once confidence is shaken it can be hard to get it back. In the first set, one of the opponents served 15 in a row. However, in the second set Harper Congdon and Madigan Teodoru each scored service aces, and Kaitlyn Gulluscio and Mackenzie Speece-Langendal played hard at the net.

Sophie Clark made a nice run to support a teammate whose serve receive went askew, inspiring the team to play with more intensity. In the end the score was a respectable 25-17 loss.

The teams are now half-way through their season. The March 24 match against Port Jefferson had to be canceled due to positive COVID testing for the Royals, but both varsity and JV teams will face the Pierson Whalers at home on Saturday, April 3.