The Shelter Island volleyball teams met league-leading Mattituck for the second time on Sept. 28, but at an unexpected location. It had been scheduled for the Tuckers’ home gym, but a tornado had blown off a portion of the gym’s roof.
The match was played at Cutchogue East.
The first time we saw Mattituck it was our very first competition of the year. We were still quite green and we had a few health scares.
Two players weren’t feeling up to snuff due to respiratory symptoms, and an on-court collision between two others during warmups led to the brief application of ice packs, but without any ill effects.
Mattituck is at the top of the league for good reason. Tough serving, a couple of strong hitters and a well-coached team means there are rarely moments of confusion on the Tuckers’ side of the court.
Our goals for this match were to score more points than last match and reduce serving errors. After getting our serving warmed up, both were accomplished.
One of the satisfying things as a coach is seeing athletes transfer skills from a practice setting and apply it in a game situation. There were broad smiles as Maddie Springer successfully popped a ball out of the net and a teammate put it over — that play was practiced the night before.
Maddie Springer and Sophie Clark are our setters, putting up the ball to hitters to take swings. Alex Burns’s strong arm benefited from several sets as our offense becomes more diverse. Clark scores points by hits and tricky setter dumps. She earned 8 kills, the top for the team.
Kat Austin continues to be a blocking force at the net, changing the ability of opposing hitters to take big swings. Mackenzie Speece is also a middle hitter and blocker, and brought her newly consistent jump serve to the game.
Kaitlyn Gulluscio, Margaret Schultheis and Harper Congdon each bring consistent serving. Gulluscio has the ability to drop tricky short serves, catching teams off guard. Schultheis’s short stature belies the strength of her jump serve, and her consistently positive attitude is a great asset.
Congdon’s confidence and game knowledge has increased tremendously since last season; she sported the different color jersey of the libero position during the Mattituck match.
Mary Gennari and Andrea Napoles are adaptable players. Gennari normally plays as an outside hitter, and is relied on for her spot-placing ability on serves. In the final set against Mattituck she strung together multiple points. Napoles is valuable as an adaptable hitter, playing both middle and outside.
At the end of the game, Mattituck had the win, but we had accomplished our goals. Our serving errors were down significantly from previous matches, and we scored 52% more points than we had in our first encounter with Mattituck.
The junior varsity also had a strong showing against Mattituck, winning one set. It was great to see a former Island player doing a nice job for the Tuckers. Danae Carter played for Shelter Island last year.
Coach Andrejack has been focusing on getting all players knowledgeable about the game. Grace Katherine-Lim, Victoria Hernandez and Keili Osorio Lopez are playing their first season of volleyball and listened intently as their coach, a former libero, shared the importance of always being ready. “If the ball is moving, you are moving. Stay on the balls of your feet. Watch the player’s hand — see if she’s going to hit the ball or tip it.”
The team started well with Mae Brigham and Elli Schack serving aces. Mandy Marcello and Tola Bliss combined for a great pass, set, kill point, but soon a tough server allowed Mattituck to close out the set.
Lauren Gibbs has been working hard on her serving consistency; her ace at the start of the second set sparked the joyful and well-choreographed, “Ah, ace, whoo!”
Darianna Duran Alvarado made a great back-to-the-net save to score a point, then followed it with an ace. Johanna Kaasik’s pass to Tola Bliss who set it to Mae Brigham knotted the score at 23-23, before a smart tip and a tough server let Mattituck take the set 25-23.
A strong Mattituck server got the Tuckers out to a 7-0 lead in the next set. A quick time-out settled the squad, and 3 hits became the norm as the team battled back. Quinn Sobejana’s fast feet helped cover the court, and she also used her hands to receive a serve.
Lili Kuhr made a nice serve to pull the score to 9-18. As the team continued to gain momentum, Kuhr also made a fabulous save to pull us even closer at 19-21. Marcello served three straight, including 2 aces to seal the win for the Islanders.
On Sept. 30 we tested our improving skills against the Baywomen. JV have had some challenges having players eligible to play, but despite a nice showing in the second set, Hampton Bays won easily.
The varsity knew we faced a challenge, and the first sets, with scores of 25-10 and 25-11, proved that point. In the third set we played more closely, with the score always within 3 points.
There were some great rallies, and when Hampton Bays finally won the third set 25-22, we were pleased with our efforts.
COMING UP Our annual breast cancer awareness and fundraising Dig Pink game is today, Thursday, Oct. 6, against the Pierson Whalers. JV starts at 4 p.m. and varsity at 5:45 p.m.
Come support the team and the worthy cause.