And, just like that, we are half-way through the volleyball season.
Although a fairly normal one in terms of the calendar, the season has been unusual with the number of injuries or health-related issues. The junior varsity team in particular has been hit hard.
In addition to Coach Mayo’s extended absence, two players have been out 10 days or more with injuries, while two others are just getting qualified with their minimum number of practices.
The stalwart seven remaining players have kept the ship afloat. In the past week they added two victories to their tally, raising their record to 4-2.
Monday, Sept. 20 was a home game slated for a 4 p.m. start, but the first whistle didn’t sound until after 5:30. With bus shortages (COVID rears its head yet again), it was difficult for the Ross team to charter a bus until much later than usual. The Ross volleyball program had taken a hiatus last year because of the pandemic, and due to late arriving international students, they have had a late start to their season.
The Ross JV team was noticeably raw, with much assistance needed from their patient coaches to get them into the proper lineup. To their credit, they improved their confidence and playing throughout the match.
Behind the strong serving of Madison Springer and Kaitlyn Gulluscio, the Islanders quickly claimed a 25-10 win. The second set began much the same way. While Ross scored the first point, Springer quickly added 9 points, with her final ace match tally standing at 20.
Despite the early lack of competition, the Islanders continued to play the right way — coming together in center court to celebrate or console one another after each point. Mackenzie Speece-Landgendal had a terrific chase down of a ball to save a point. As Ross’s confidence improved, so did their serving, and the second set was much closer: 25-19.
As our players gain skills and confidence, we try to continue to challenge them. Danae Carter has shown both an interest and aptitude for setting, and in the third set she and Springer shared setting duties. The tag team approach was a success, and behind the 6-ace performance of Andrea Napoles, the Islanders capped the sweep, 25-14.
On Friday, Sept. 24 we continued our homestand, welcoming the Port Jefferson Royals. JV was a bit out of sorts in set one, but Dariana Duran Alvarado served an ace to inspire the team. As we continued a comeback, there was a terrific rally at 22-24, but Port Jeff held on to claim the set 25-22.
Set two proved to be much more composed. Napoles reprised her 6-ace total, which tied Speece-Langandal for the most points scored directly from serves. The score was 25-18, setting us up for the tiebreaker.
The Royals got off to a fast start, jumping out to an 8-0 lead. However, the Islanders didn’t panic, and behind the strong serving of Harper Congdon, just chipped away at their lead. A textbook Napoles dig, Carter set, and Springer kill energized the team. Gullsucio saved a ball out of the net, and the team went on to claim the match win, 25-22.
The varsity squad also saw action against the Ross School and Port Jefferson this past week.
The Ross varsity squad is significantly stronger than they have been in many years. Their tough serving was a surprise, along with some strong offense that was nice to see.
The match proved to be a tight race to the end. Lily Page has significantly improved the strength and reliability of her serve, and Angie Rice’s skill at reading the offense put a significant dent in their top player’s ability to score on her hits. Myla Dougherty’s ability to hit from both sides of the court came in handy, and she scored a team-high 8 kills.
Ross took the first two sets 25-21 and 25-18. In an attempt to shake things up and put a little more pressure on their hitters, we switched our lineup in the third set, with Alex Burns taking at run at the outside hitter position. That worked well and the Islanders took the next set 25-22.
The next set we got out to a comfortable 6-point lead, but Ross would not concede. Their relentless defense allowed our errors to take the wind out of our sails, and they crept back into the match, stunning us with a 7-point run to win the match 26-24.
We knew the Port Jeff game would be tough. The Royals are undefeated in League VI and tend to get stronger throughout the match. We put in the time to practice against their big blocks and to cover the tricky setter tips.
The Islanders did a nice job on some new skills. Dayla Reyes had a terrific day on defense, particularly on reading and picking up tips, something we haven’t had to do all season. Mary Gennari had a great, steady serving, while Madi Teodoru remained cool and collected making it look effortless to pop up tough serves.
Franny Regan was reliable on offense as she scored 7 kills. Ariana Carter is really coming into her own with blocking and hitting.
We took the first set 25-20, but as predicted the Royals did not give up. Olivia Overstreet lent her steady serving to the effort, but our hitting errors and Port Jeff’s very diligent defense let them take the next two sets 25-21, 25-18. In the last set there was a fabulous final rally, with Dayla Reyes getting her hand between the ball and the floor in a spectacular “pancake” move. Unfortunately, the ref didn’t see the save in the same light, and the Royals took the final set 25-14.
The Islanders have mainly played on the Island during the first half of the season, so we only have two home games left: Wednesday, September 29 we see Mattituck for the second time.
Our final home match is October 13 which will feature our Dig Pink breast cancer awareness fundraiser and our Senior Send-off. Come cheer on the team!