The week of April 5 featured a three-match road trip for Shelter Island varsity volleyball. It was bookended by wins: Our best all round match followed by a difficult “perfect storm” loss topped off with a Phoenix-like rise from the ashes to victory.
Due to the earlier COVID cancellation, Tuesday, April 6, was our first match of the season against Greenport/Southold. The very fast-paced game featured the quickest offense of the season combined with terrific defense.
Dayla Reyes is an excellent setter who continues to get compliments from opposing players, coaches and officials alike. With the rock-solid passing on serve receive from libero Angelina Rice and defensive specialist Izzy Fonseca, Dayla is free to use a variety of sets. She keeps all hitters involved and confident through her varied set distribution.
The first set was a quick 25-10 win, which led to a bit of overconfidence and resting on our laurels in the second stanza. The Porters buckled down and got out to a 9-3 lead. Behind Lydia Shepherd’s great line shot and Franny Regan’s terrific communication and readiness to hit, we caught up and had a point-by-point battle. Unfortunately, tight games are easy to lose, and Greenport squeaked out a 24-26 victory.
A bit chagrined, we pushed hard on the final two sets. Middle hitter Bella Springer has really grown into an aggressive presence, knocking down multiple overpasses for points. Myla Dougherty works well with D. Reyes, listening for last second positional changes. By running quicker sets in the middle, we were able to keep the Porter blockers on high alert, and opened up holes in the block for some fierce hits from Valeria Reyes and Jane Richards.
Our defense was also on point, frustrating the Porters’ offense. We had 56 digs (recoveries from the opponent’s hits), the highest of the season. V. Reyes had 14, D. Reyes had 12, Richards popped up 11 and Rice contributed 10.
Lily Page also had a great day from the service line, serving 7 in a row during the final set. The convincing 25-14 and 25-8 set wins sealed the match victory.
The very next day, the team boarded the bus for our second 4-hour round trip to Babylon this season. The SI gym was being used as a vaccination site, so we lost our home court advantage. Several of the athletes had opted to get the vaccine, and we were unsure if any would experience any side effects.
Very early in the first set, Valeria Reyes went down with a season-ending injury. She is a spark plug and energy leader, a 6-position player who never comes off the court, so to lose her skills and enthusiasm was a double whammy. Franny Regan, who had played in the outside hitter position for only a few rotations in practice, was our go-to athlete. She gamely stepped in, but switching positions brings some hesitation from the whole team. Worries about the injured teammate were hard to shake, and we lost the match in three straight: 23-25, 19-25, 18-25.
Saturday, April 10 just eight athletes were available to play. We traveled to Southampton for their senior game and Light it up Blue for Autism event. It was a very quiet bus ride that morning, and a very slow start to the day. Southampton hadn’t won a match all season, but they were hyped up. We were once again dealing with players in new positions as Lily Page stepped in at right side. The first set was a tentative and lackluster effort which Southampton won handily, 25-14. After missing seven serves and losing the second set 25-23, the team seemed ready to throw in the towel and just go home. But that is not how Shelter Island Volleyball rolls.
Despite their shaken confidence and downcast faces, the team took a breath, reset, and fixed on short term goals. By focusing on being supportive and celebrating each good effort and point, they won the third set 25-19. With energy restored, the team bounced back to win decisively 25-10 and 25-11.
I was so very proud of the faith these athletes had in one another, their ability to pull themselves up and will the come-from-behind win while playing with a new lineup. It was a gutsy performance, and one I hope they will remember for a long time.
The final week of this shortened season will feature our Senior Game against Mattituck on Thursday, April 15. We then hit the road the next day for a double header against Port Jefferson to wrap up league play. With no playoffs for Class Ds in Suffolk County, and no regional championships we will savor these last few days together of this unusual season.