Volleyball team shows real progress

It was another week of learning and getting better for SI volleyball. The JV team played three matches, while the varsity played one, along with their final tournament of the season.

The JV has really shown great growth in its skills this season.

On Monday, Sept. 27 they faced the Smithtown Christian Golden Knights. A JV-only program means that the squad has a mix of players, including seniors, and often is a fairly strong team. The Islanders had eight athletes available for the match. Captain Margaret Schultheis showed great hustle and energy on the court, and served 7 straight points in the first set to bring the home team to 19-12. Setter Sophie Clark connected with Danae Carter for a very nice kill. The Islanders took the first set 25-18.

By the second set, the Knights had shaken off the effects of their long bus ride. In contrast SI started looking a little out of sorts.

The ref made some confusing serve receive overlap calls, which rattled the team. There were some very nice individual plays: Mackenzie Speece-Langendal made a heads-up tip to score a point, Andrea Napoles made a great, crowd-pleasing hustle to the wall to get a ball, and Kaitlyn Gulluscio made a great save out of the net. The Knights prevailed 25-16.

The third set featured a great comeback attempt by SI. Smithtown Christian jumped out to a 9-point lead, but strong serving and hustling by SI cut that to a 3-pt margin. Harper Congdon made a great save from behind end line to put the ball over the net. With a back-and-forth game, both coaches used both timeouts before the visitors took the set and match with a 25-21 win.

The JV team also saw the Knights on Friday, Oct 1. Despite some nice serving by Dariana Duran Alvarado, and a Danae Carter and Sophie Clark setting duo, Smithtown Christian held on for a 25-16, 28-26, 25-17 sweep. 

Wednesday, Sept. 29 started the second half of the league season. We faced Mattituck for the second time, this time on our home court. The Tuckers were noticeably surprised at the polished pass-set-hit play of the JV squad, which has come a long way in the last month. Calm and confident, they took the first set 25-15, the first win against Mattituck in Coach Mayo’s memory. The Tuckers quickly recalibrated, and despite a 9-ace and 3-kill performance by Maddie Springer, they took the second two sets for the match win 25-15 and 25-17. It is always great when the opposing coach compliments your team, and so we were very happy with the result.

The varsity had seen Mattituck in our very first competition of the year. We knew to expect some very powerful hitting from the Tuckers. We shifted our lineup to put Alex Burns at outside hitter so Myla Dougherty could help Ariana Carter on the block. Despite the efforts of defensive specialists Olivia Overstreet and Madigan Teodoru, we just didn’t have enough to overcome the Tuckers’ firepower. Although we scored more points against them this time, they swept the set in three.

Saturday, Oct. 2 was our third and final tournament of the season. The Eastport South Manor tournament is always a nice mix of small to large schools, with both public and private schools present. This gives us a chance to not only see what level of volleyball is possible at the high school level, but to rise to the occasion. Because of health and other conflicts, we had just 7 athletes, but once again, they had a great day.

Stamina was much better than in our first tournament, and the athletes are now unfazed when I draw up a new lineup for each set. We took full advantage of the flexibility of the libero position in the semi-finals as Angie Rice deftly traded places with both Lily Page and Ariana Carter in their various positions. Others also adjusted on the fly, a victory for training for multiple positions. 

We saw Class AA Sachem North and Class A West Babylon in pool play. We beat Sachem in one set, and played competitively in all. The teams looked shocked that Class D Shelter Island, the smallest school playing volleyball on Long Island, played so well.  Franny Regan played great defense, popping up several hard-driven balls which were inside the attack line — something we just don’t see in League VI play. Myla Dougherty served very well, as well as spending time at middle hitter. Dougherty, Page and Carter each improved their blocking response during the challenging, fast-paced offense. Mary Gennari both reliably stepped in on broken plays to set, and also played outside hitter during one game — a brand new position for her.

Valeria Reyes and I put our heads together to figure out which lineup we preferred for the Silver Bracket semi-final match against the Stony Brook Bears. The Bears sported some excellent serving, some tough hitting and several more people on the bench, but we went toe to toe with them. A comeback bid in the first set fell just short 25-22, but behind the high energy setting of Dayla Reyes we took the second, 25-22. Regan, the hot hitter of the day, scored 5 kills in the match before our day ended as Stony Brook took the tiebreaker 15-9.

There are so many benefits to playing in tournaments — confidence that you can get a piece of a hit on a block. Confidence that you can play back row, or a different position. Without the pressure of league records, we are free to try new things and shake it off if they don’t work well.

The Gold Bracket final between a tall and talented Smithtown West against a smaller but defensively terrific Kellenberg was great fun and inspiring to watch. Even at the end of a long day of playing, the girls opted to wait and see the match to the end before heading home on our bus, happy and proud of their excellent effort.

The last home match of the season against Babylon is Wednesday, Oct. 13. This will be our Dig Pink breast cancer awareness fundraiser as well as our Senior Game. JV starts at 4:30, with varsity to follow. Please come support both our athletes and a great cause.