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Shelter Island volleyball 2022 season opens: New beginnings for JV and varsity

It’s the time of year for new beginnings. No, not January, September. School has started and fall sports are here. The thump of a ball, the squeak of sneakers on the gym floor coupled with the intermittent sound of whistles always lets me know that my favorite time of year is here.

The volleyball team has a new look this year, both in players and coaches. Coach Kristin Andrejack, one of Shelter Island’s physical education teachers, will head the junior varsity squad.

A volleyball player herself, she’s coached many teams and brings a positive, competitive spirit to the game. We will miss Laura Mayo’s student-centered presence in the gym, and wish her luck as she moves on from Shelter Island.

The varsity roster has 10 athletes, only two of whom are returning players. Last year’s graduating class took nine players with it, but the Class of 2023 is happy to be stepping into a leadership role this season. The JV squad has 12 on its roster, including a couple of newcomers to athletics.

On Sept. 1, Shelter Island faced off against perennial powerhouse Mattituck on our home court. There are three sophomores on the JV team, the remainder are 9th graders. Of the returning players, only Dariana Duran Alvarado played a full season in 2021. Johanna Kaasik only became eligible to play in the second half of the season and Tola Bliss was out with an injury.

These older players stepped up to leadership roles. Kaasik was tapped as a setter the first set, and her soft hands and court sense were apparent from the start. Duran Alvarado served strongly, while Bliss notched 4 service aces in a row at the end of the last set. 

The younger players also show lots of promise. Miranda Marcello is tall and confident, and will prove to be a strong hitter and blocker. Elliot Schack brought fast feet and nice serving ability to the game. Mae Brigham is tall and also has good potential as a setter. She got a huge stuff block, to her teammates’ delight.

Quinn Sobejana loves a challenge on a pass, and anchored a nice pass-set-kill sequence: Sobejana passed to Schack who set Marcello for a crowd-pleasing kill. Lili Kuhr is quickly learning good defensive techniques. Keili Osorio Lopez and Grace Katherine-Lim are relatively new to the game, but both are learning to be more confident in going after the ball.

Neither Victoria Hernandez or Lauren Gibbs had enough practices to play in the Mattituck match, but Hernandez’s quiet resilience and Gibbs’ excellent jumping ability and competitive spirit will add to the team’s depth as the season progresses.

Coach Andrejack said, “Although we’re a young squad and have many players who are new to the game, this team is packed with potential, ambition and determination.”

The varsity team stepped on the court ready to show that they weren’t intimidated by the Tuckers, who sported a large squad in numbers and height.

Senior Captains Alex Burns and Mary Gennari showed leadership skills from the start. Burns brings a competitive spirit as well as strong defense and a hard-hitting attack. Her down-the-line kill to the deep corner had the Tuckers nodding their heads in admiration.

Gennari is adaptable, and this match she was tapped to be an outside hitter. Her six error-free serves topped the squad’s tally.

Maddie Springer and Sophie Clark stepped up to the challenge of setting the offense for the varsity squad. 

Andrea Napoles and Mackenzie Speece were our middle hitters for the match. It was Napoles’s first time at the position, but she proved a quick study, making fast defensive moves and getting up on blocks. Speece also put up a nice block and scored on a tricky off-speed hit.

Kat Austin will add to that blocking ability once she has enough practices to compete. While new to the sport, Austin has proved to have excellent timing; she will emerge as an excellent blocker.

The block is an essential part of our defense, especially against heavy hitters. By jumping at the net and “blocking” a portion of the court, the front row funnels the hits to our back row defense. Mattituck’s Sage Foster was League VIII’s 2021 MVP for good reason.

Her booming hits score lots of points. However, in this match nearly every single hit was contested, with the Islanders getting a touch on Foster’s swings. Margaret Schultheis, Harper Congdon and Kaitlyn Gulluscio held down the back court, courageously staring down the powerful hits.

While Mattituck swept both matches 3-0, Coach Andrejack and I were pleased with the effort of our squads. The athletes were proud of their playing, and are looking forward to learning and growing as they continue to play well, work hard and have fun.

The Islanders will be on their home court on Tuesday, Sept. 13, with the JV game scheduled for 4 p.m. and the varsity at 5:45 p.m.

We are excited to watch these athletes grow in confidence and skill. Wear your blue and gray and come cheer them on.