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Varsity volleyball team in post season play: JV ensures a solid future

The high school volleyball season is nearly complete.

It’s been over two months and hundreds of hours of practices, bus rides, and matches. During that time 10 of our 22 athletes experienced high school volleyball for the first time. During the first week of practices, there were players who literally didn’t know the parts of the court, or the basic rules of the game. Now those things are routine, with many new skills learned and friendships made.


The players on the junior varsity had two final matches this past week, against the strong Babylon Panthers and Port Jefferson Royals. There has never been a lack of enthusiasm on this squad, but it has been gratifying to see the all-out effort result in a more refined outcome.

Quinn Sobejana is fast, and that focused speed now results in more controlled passes. Elli Schack’s sets are more targeted and precise, allowing hitters to know who should be swinging at those balls.

Grace Katherine-Lim and Keili Osorio Lopez are far more confident in their passing and hitting abilities.

Like Schack, setters Johanna Kaasik and Mae Brigham have nice hands, and their ability to block has really improved as their experience allows them to “read the ball.” 

As a returning player, Dariana Duran Alvarado knew the improvement the younger athletes would see over the course of the season. Her own much-improved serving has been a boon for the team.

Lili Kuhr and Tola Bliss are both good defensive players — their movement on the court independent of the ball shows their understanding of the full game. Bliss’s fast and fierce serves are a highlight.

Mandy Marcello and Lauren Gibbs are both “hungry hitters.” They move to the ball well and are ready to swing to spark our offense.

The evolution of a three-hit offense is the sign of a more mature team, and makes the team fun to watch.

It is great to sit on the JV bench, and listen to the athletes coach and encourage one another. “Don’t swing at it, take a drop step.” “Drop your shoulder, put it over.” “Play from your heart, don’t get in your heads.” “Great hustle!”

They have indeed been absorbing the spirit of the game.

Coach Kristin Andrejack was pleased with the season, saying, “The JV team had a tremendous season, ending with 6 wins, and tons of team and personal goals accomplished.

The team showed so much heart and determination this fall. We worked hard and had a lot of fun along the way, and I cannot wait to see what we will do next year.”


People may get tired of me saying how proud I am of the Shelter Island volleyball team. However, our back-to-back matches against Babylon and Port Jefferson on Oct. 18 and 19 once again made me smile and be thankful for all our athletes have learned.

The long and loud bus ride to Babylon notwithstanding, it was great to see the Panthers. “Aunt” Brenda Mayo, former Shelter Island JV Coach Laura Mayo’s mother and Babylon’s JV coach, traveled with many of the team members this summer on their trip to Spain.

As part of the Babylon senior game, our seniors were presented with flowers and the whole team was treated to pizza. Making friends and sharing experiences is just one reason to play sports.

Less than 24 hours later, Shelter Island was back on the court, hosting our own Senior Send-off. Following a fun photo shoot, the formal evening activities featured tributes to the seniors from younger players.

The sometimes-tearful presentations outlined what the younger athletes have learned from the older girls, both on and off the court.

As the game began, those same supportive relationships were evident on the court.

All five seniors started at their final home game. Captain Alex Burns showcased her fierce new jump serve while Kaitlyn Gulluscio’s rock solid 97% serving rate backed Burns up as the match continued.

Andrea Napoles generally plays all the way around on the court, but Harper Congden, a defensive specialist, stepped in when Napoles got in a pickle with a tough Port Jeff server.

Maddie Springer and Sophie Clark are our setters; they depend on one another to get to the ball when the other can’t. This dynamic duo has formed a strong bond and led our team in setting, serving and passionate play.

Margaret Schultheis is a defensive specialist, backing up front row hitters like Kat Austin. She had a great final home match with nice passing and always positive attitude, even on this emotional night.

Mackenzie Speece has worked hard this season to improve many skills and her now-reliable jump serve scored several points in two high pressure end-of-set situations.

Mary Gennari, our other senior captain, is kind and compassionate, but on the court, she’s evolved into a smart and fearless competitor. Her strong serves pinpointed weaker Port Jeff receivers, showing her growth as an astute volleyball player.

Port Jeff is a strong, well-coached team that can serve and hit hard. At the end of the evening, the Royals coach complimented me on the growth of the Islanders’ squad, especially on our blocking and defense.

The seniors on the squad had indeed played their hearts out, and the juniors worked to support their mentors at the last home match of 2022.

The league season is now over, but the gritty play against Babylon and Port Jefferson is one reason that Shelter Island will be continuing in the post season.

We will face Class D rival, the Ross School, on Nov. 7. Although Ross won both matches during the regular season, we are extremely closely matched, and we continue to improve our strategies and individual skills.

The seniors are not ready to hang up their knee pads yet. There is a county championship on the line, and just a little bit of time left to make their mark on the proud legacy of Shelter Island volleyball.