Great news: Shelter Island’s volleyball team is back in the playoffs. Despite qualifying as the Class D Suffolk County champs in April, last spring’s COVID-limited season did not allow any higher-level playoffs. That is not the case this fall.
On Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 5 p.m. at Southampton High School, your hometown Islanders will face the Ross Ravens. The teams are very evenly matched, and it will likely be a close battle to see who will be county champs and qualify for the Regionals — just one step away from going to the final four at “States.”
The week of Oct. 18 was the final week of the regular season. The JV faced two opponents, while the varsity faced one.
On Monday, Oct. 18, both squads headed to Stony Brook University. Port Jefferson’s gym floor is being replaced, so the Stony Brook gym has served as the home court for the Royals.
The Royals are sitting at the top of League VI, and they have cranked up their offense throughout the season. Despite seven different Island varsity athletes notching kills, the match was never in doubt as the Royals won 25-14, 25-20 and 25-15. Despite that loss, the varsity posted a very respectable 5-7 record on the season and are excited to be in the post season.
The junior varsity squad also played the Royals. Seemingly a bit overwhelmed by the big school atmosphere, the team was very quiet. Maddie Springer, one of the starting setters and key players was sick, which added to the discomfort.
However, after dropping the first set 25-10, the team began literally coming together after each point to support one another. Sophie Clark, top kill-getter on the night, consistently put the ball to a deep corner of the Royals court for points. Andrea Napoles started taking charge on the court, passing, hitting and even setting a ball.
Harper Congdon made a great hustling play all the way to the bench. Johanna Kaasik passed a nice ball to Kaity Gulluscio, who set it to Danae Carter, which resulted in an Island point as her tricky tip hit the ground. The competitive second set ended 25-18 for the Royals.
Dariana Duran Alvarado and Margaret Schutheis held down the back court in set three, with Margaret keeping the team spirit up by calling for a down ball to hit. Mackenzie Speece-Lagendal made a nice tip to add to the total. The final score was 25-10 in Port Jeff’s favor.
The JV’s final match of the season was a long road trip to Babylon on Thursday, Oct. 21. It was the second half of the “Battle of the Mayos,” this time on Babylon’s home court.
The two-hour bus ride is always tough, and the first set showed it. Slow to warm up, the Islanders quickly dropped the first set 25-5. Humbled, but not discouraged, they quickly rebounded. To the joy of the younger Coach Mayo, the Islanders went on to sweep the next two sets 25-13 and 25-18 for the match win, and bragging rights for the next year.
Coach Laura Mayo reflected: “It was another fun season with a team whose positivity and love for the game grew every day. My favorite moment was after they lost the first set in our Babylon game 25-5, they got together and decided it was their mindset that needed changing, and they came back to win the next two sets.”
Coach Mayo also praised the work of Tola Bliss. Injured early on, Tola stuck with the team the entire season. She was at every practice and game, tossing and collecting balls, and taking stats. “I’ve never had someone provide so much support. It was like having an assistant coach,” Coach Mayo said. “I love that at the end of every game I can look at each individual player and say at least one positive thing they brought to it. It never ceases to amaze me how our teams lift each other up after every point and support each other and find something positive to say whether we win or lose.”
While winning is not the be-all and end-all, it was great to see the JV ending the season on a terrific note, with an 8-6 record to boot.
With the JV season over, several of the older athletes are now practicing with the varsity team. This not only gives them extra experience and injects new energy into practice, it also gives them (and me) a glimpse of the team of the future.
For now, we‘re focusing on the near future: November 3. Come to Southampton to see these great kids play the game they love for the honor of being crowned county champs.