A crispness to the air, the slap of a hand on a ball and the squeak of sneakers on courts tells me my favorite season has arrived. Autumn is awesome, but I’m talking about volleyball.
Four months ago the nets were packed away. Volleyball is normally a fall sport, but COVID delayed last year’s season. This year we’re back on track.
We’re still rocking masks, checking temperatures and holding separate practices, with 23 athletes between two squads. Nine seniors and three juniors fill out the varsity roster, while three juniors, four sophomores and four 9th graders are on junior varsity.
Our varsity lost five athletes since last season, four to graduation and senior Valeria Reyes to injury. Valeria continues to bring her knowledge and enthusiasm to the gym as our team manager and coach.
The season opener against Mattituck was held on Wednesday, Sept.1. It was early, before school started and after only eight practices. Several of the athletes were unable to meet the minimum number of practices needed because of work, family obligations and summer academic work.
However, the “shakedown cruise” against the Tuckers revealed that we’re ready to work hard to reach our goals.
Dayla Reyes, our All-Conference setter, will be running the offense. Mary Gennari also has nice hands and will be counted on to step in on help sets as well as contribute to blocking and hitting on the right side. We have a deep bench when it comes to defense.
Angelina Rice was our top passer and defender last season, and will lead the defense again this year, either as the libero or perhaps as an outside hitter. Izzy Fonseca is a returning varsity defensive specialist. Madigan Teodoru was the JV libero last year while Olivia Overstreet has fast feet and is fearless in pursuit of the ball.
Our hitters are a versatile lot, with many able to make an impact at the middle or outside positions. Lily Page, Ariana Carter and Bella Springer are the top middles, with Franny Regan and Myla Dougherty swinging hard on the outside. Junior Alex Burns will also be counted on to contribute as an outside hitter as she gains confidence on the varsity court.
It took the squad a couple of sets against perennial league champ Mattituck to adjust to the faster pace of the game, and to gain confidence as a group.
Bella Springer and Ariana Carter teamed up for a nice block against Mattituck’s toughest hitter, and Rice’s never-say-die defense popped up ball after ball. Service and hitting errors took their toll, but a stronger showing in the third set, including a 6-point run by Franny Regan, was encouraging.
The team remained positive and is looking forward to bettering the 25-6, 25-9, 25-20 scores when we see them on our home court.
Coach Laura Mayo has had a challenge getting members of her squad qualified. The junior varsity squad was only able to suit up the minimum six players, but despite learning a new offensive pattern in just one practice, they played well.
Sophie Clark was tapped as the setter, and her take-charge attitude steadied the team. Her strong serve got the team out to a quick 5-point lead at the start of the first set. Clark led the team with four service aces. Hitters Harper Congdon, Kaitlyn Gulluscio and Mackenzie Speece-Landgendal were Clark’s main targets. Mackenzie moved very well on the court, also being alert at the net to hit down a few overpasses, earning four kills. Congdon earned two aces, while Gullusico chipped in two kills.
Dariana Duran Alvarado and Danae Carter are 9th graders, playing their first high school match. After an intramurals season last year, they stepped it up. Dariana has been working hard on her serve, and as the ball dropped for a point, there was a huge cheer from the bench and bleachers. Danae is a mobile player and her diving saves inspired the team.
Despite having no subs, they lost the match against the 17-player Mattituck squad with very respectable scores of 25-18, 25-8 and 25-20.
Coach Mayo is looking forward to the rest of her team completing their minimum number of practices to qualify to play, or to return from injury. Captain Margaret Schultheis, Andrea Napoles, Madison Springer, Tola Bliss and Johanna Kaasik will round out the roster.
The teams have their home opener against Pierson on Friday, Sept. 10, and will face the Greenport/Southold squads on Monday, Sept. 13. Fans are allowed to attend as long as they remain masked and socially distance in the bleachers.
Come catch a game and cheer on our local athletes!