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Shelter Island School Volleyball teams move up and dine out

There are many perks of being an athlete. Bonding with teammates. Improving skills. Becoming more physically fit. Choosing where to eat dinner on away games.

Twenty-four hours before the team boarded the bus for a long ride to Port Jefferson on Sept. 22, it was already decided that Chick-Fil-A was the post-match dinner stop of choice.

From left, Andrea Napoles, Mackenzie Speece and Alex Burns sporting this year’s varsity warm-up shirts. Coach Cindy Belt said, “Volleyball swag is part of helping to build a team feeling/culture — that and apparently agreeing about where to eat on the way home from matches.” (Credit: Cindy Belt)

The home game against the Ross School on Tuesday, September 20 didn’t call for a dinner decision. The matches against the Ravens were cause for celebration for the JV and a bit of frustration for the varsity.

The afternoon before, the JV team had swept the Purple squad of the Greenport /Southold Clippers, with nice contributions from all players. However, two starters were ineligible for the Ross match, so Coach Andrejack had devised a new line-up and the squad rose to the challenge.

Tola Bliss, normally an outside hitter, was moved to the middle where she proved that position on the court didn’t matter as long as she could swing away, notching 7 kills, while maintaining her blazing serves and scoring 15 aces.

Elli Schack is becoming more confident, putting up increasingly well-placed sets while also scoring 2 kills. Grace Katherine-Lim contributed with a nice put-over on a broken play, while Dariana Duran Alvarado had 4 aces.

Lili Kuher, normally a defensive specialist, made the move to playing in all six rotations as an outside hitter. She has been working hard on her serve and was rewarded with scoring a point from the serving line.

Keili Osorio Lopez and Victoria Hernandez also spent time at the outside hitter position against the Ravens, contributing to the 25-23, 25-20, 25-10 sweep.

On Thursday, September 22, the team boarded the bus to Port Jefferson, their Chick-Fil-A apps at the ready.

The Royals are a good team. Mae Brigham showed her versatility handling setting duties in the first set, then switched to playing middle in the next two. Miranda Marcello also played in the middle while Quinn Sobejana’s great hustle on a shanked ball on serve receive sparked the team.

Johanna Kaasik took over setting in sets 2 and 3, and Lauren Gibbs showed her excellent sense of timing at the net as she tipped a short serve back over to surprise the Royals. The team did a lot of adjusting to new situations, but in the end Port Jeff took the match 25-14, 25-10 and 25-22.


The varsity team came away from the Sept. 20 Ross match a bit frustrated. During the 4-set showdown we scored the highest number of kills in a match this year, proof that our passing and offensive efforts are bearing fruit.

Unfortunately, our inconsistency at the service line, averaging over 5 missed serves per set, derailed the close match.

The Islanders and Ravens are in a rebuilding year, with our athletes showing improving skills and team concepts. Setters Maddie Springer and Sophie Clark put in an all-out effort resulting in a bruised knee for Clark and a wringing wet uniform for Springer.

The Islanders took the first set 25-17. Margaret Schultheis broke out her newly improved high speed serve in the second set and Mary Gennari showed great timing on an excellent block in set 3, while Kaitlyn Gulluscio dug up a hard Ross hit that landed on the far side of the net for a point.

Unfortunately, we lost those sets 25-20.

In the final set, Alex Burns took a nice receive with her hands, getting the ball quickly to our setters. Andrea Napoles had 5 kills, while Springer scored 8 kills, and Clark hit for 7 kills and dished out 11 assists.

Midway through the set we lost a series of points on serves and got down 10-17. But the Islanders didn’t give up, buckling down to fall just short of forcing a tie-breaking set at 25-23. Lessons were learned and the rematch will be an exciting chance to even the score.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, the team traveled to Port Jefferson without the ability to put hard-working Sophie Clark on the court. The Royals finished last year at the top of the league, and are looking well-polished again this year.

Always looking to find a silver lining, the team took the opportunity to learn something new and shift to a single setter model, where Madison Springer ran the court the entire match.

Port Jeff lived up to their billing, mixing up the attack, keeping our defenders on their toes. Gennari did an excellent job adjusting to the new style, seeing and covering many of the tips. Harper Congdon is developing quickly to read the attack and got called on to be the libero for this match.

Mackenzie Speece did a nice job of being in the middle front, causing hitters to go over or around her block. Kat Austin, a new player to the sport this year, is so much more confident on the court. Each match gives her a chance to improve her hitting. A resounding solo block at Port Jeff was the cap to a great match for her.

The final point of the match showed a long rally with great hustling. Despite the 25-12, 25-7, 25-14 loss the team showed an excellent effort, determined to not give up.

While the outcome of the visit to the Royals gym didn’t result in a win, the teams took solace in the improvements they are seeing as they head into the second half of the league schedule. Both squads are more confident, adaptable and knowledgeable.

Besides, there were waffle fries, sweet frozen drinks and signature Chick-Fil-A sauce before the long ride home.

Looking ahead: Come support your local team on Friday Sept. 30, as we take on a tough Hampton Bays team. Save the date of Thursday, Oct. 6 for our annual Dig Pink match against Pierson. This special event raises money and awareness about breast cancer.