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Volleyball girls bag big win over rival Pierson

There is pride and satisfaction in a well-executed game plan. And careful planning and disciplined play were the order of the day on Saturday, April 3, when Shelter Island had a rematch against the Pierson Whalers. 

The last time the Islanders beat Pierson was in 2015, before any current players were in the program. Pierson has had to rebuild their team quickly since they lost their setter, libero and All-State hitter from last year.

But their height is a distinct advantage and they beat us just three weeks ago. We have since spent time analyzing our strengths and how to adjust to Pierson’s style of play.

Liberos, defensive specialists, are “free” substitutions and can go in for anyone in the back line. We took full advantage of that flexibility along with Angelina Rice’s quick learning and love of a challenge during the April 3 match when two of our other defensive specialists were unavailable due to illness or family commitments. Angie not only frustrated the Pierson offense, but served extremely well, notching 20 service points.

That meant that our three middle hitters who are used to only playing front row had the opportunity to show off their serving and defensive chops. I was not disappointed.

Lily Page served well, and popped up several balls. Myla Dougherty and Bella Springer continued their impressive blocking presence at the net, but also ably played defense.

This team is an exceptionally supportive and positive one, so when a new rotation presented challenges, they all chipped in with their knowledge.

Lydia Shepherd has been a reliable right side hitter and also sets in a pinch. Her increasing confidence is great to see. As our setter, Dayla Reyes quarterbacks the offense. She also had an outstanding effort with seven kills on her well-placed tips.

Valeria Reyes and Jane Richards are our outside hitters, and we rely on them heavily in serve receive, defense and offense capabilities. Their volleyball IQ is great, and their ability to score points using both brains and brawn is awesome.

When Valeria served the ball over on game point, and Jane scored on a kill to seal the win, the result was a joyous group hug in the center of the court.

Every single one of these eight athletes contributed to the terrific game, stunning Pierson 25-21, 25-16 and 25-22.

The junior varsity followed the varsity victory, and in another terrific performance walked away with a match win as well. In the first set Alex Burns and Mary Shepherd’s super serving launched the team out to an 11-2 lead.

Madison Springer tipped a ball to an empty spot on the court, and Andrea Napoles’ two consecutive service aces grew the lead to 17-6. Margaret Schultheis showed her growth in confidence and serving as she also served back-to-back aces to cap the 25-14 win.

Set two relied more on finesse than serving. Kaitlyn Gulluscio played strong at the net, as did Ariana Carter who jumped high on blocks and hit down some Whaler overpasses. Olivia Overstreet, in her trademark sliding defensive moves, hustled from one side of the court to the other.

Madison Teodoru, normally noted for her excellent passing, went on a serving run with her tricky short serves, which stymied Pierson. She served out the set for the 25-18 match win.

In JV matches, you play three sets to give developing athletes a chance to get playing time, even if the match has already been decided in the first two. With the victory in hand, Coach Laura Mayo had fun mixing up the lineup.

Harper Congdon played both front row and showed her strong serve. Sophie Clark’s athleticism helped make a couple of tough saves and hustles look nearly effortless. Mackenzie Speece-Lagendal’s confidence at hitting is increasing, and she made two back-to-back plays to score a point.

The Whalers ended up winning the third set 25-14, but with the match victory in hand, the team happily headed into the Easter weekend.

With just two weeks left in this shortened season, Shelter Island Volleyball is enjoying every moment.