Both the girls and boys Shelter Island basketball teams have had a couple of tough years.
The 2020-21 season was extremely short — only a month long due to the still-new COVID pandemic. Last year’s 2021-2022 season was marked by low participation for both programs.
With only a handful of girls and a minimum number of boys, the Islanders were able to pull together a young varsity boys team, and a small combined boys and girls JV team.
This year, the girls are fielding a varsity team with 11 athletes, while the boys have both JV and varsity squads.
Coach Erin Mulrain, one of Shelter Island’s physical education teachers and an outstanding three-sport athlete for Mattituck in her high school years, is challenged with reinvigorating the girls program.
There are only three returning players for the team this year: senior Madison Springer and juniors Kaitlyn Gulluscio and Sophie Clark. Most of the rest have only junior high experience and have made the difficult leap to varsity.
Several also are dual athletes, “double majoring” in basketball as well as winter track or cheer.
Another confounding factor has been illness. The flu made the rounds of the team, leaving very few athletes available for practice over an extended period. Injuries have dealt a tough blow, as well.
Captain and team leader Sophie Clark really loves basketball and lobbied her friends hard to have a girls team this year. Unfortunately, both she and Lauren Gibbs have been sporting ankle boots for a few weeks. Gibbs is poised to return to the gym this week.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the stacked odds, the team is approaching the season and each game with specific, focused goals. One of the season’s goals is for the athletes to think about their legacy.
Coach has asked the team: “How do you want to be remembered?” Each person is challenged to be a difference maker, whether by scoring points, playing fierce defense or contributing to team unity.
The Jan. 6 Mattituck game’s goals were to rebound, play team defense, and drive and shoot more aggressively.
The team rose to the occasion, getting a compliment from the Tucker’s coach, who said, “During the first three minutes, you really shut us down offensively.” Those improvements will begin to stack up and make a big difference in the overall game play.
The Islander’s roster includes three seniors, three juniors and five 9th graders.
Maddie Springer is currently the main point guard, a captain, and the high scorer in the past two games. Mary Gennari is aggressive on court, fighting for rebounds and defending against the big players in the middle. Alex Burns rounds out the seniors and is a great addition to the team.
Playing basketball for the first time in several seasons, she is fast and fierce, a leader in making steals, and makes things happen.
Junior captain Sophie Clark is passionate about basketball. Currently sidelined with an injury, the team is nearly as anxious for her return as she is when her hustle, heart and ability to score will help buoy the team’s stats.
Classmate Kaitlyn Gulluscio also played last season and her knowledge of the game helps her teammates, as they are learning plays and defensive responsibilities. Harper Congdon, another athlete returning to the sport, is learning quickly and moving confidently on the court.
Five 9th graders are on the roster. Mae Brigham is tall and has nice rebounding potential. Lauren Gibbs is returning from injury, but has nice court sense and a good competitive streak.
Keili Osorio Lopez played last year on the junior high team, and is getting more comfortable with the higher level of play.
Mandy Marcello is a fast and strong athlete, and hauled down 7 rebounds in the Mattituck game.
Quinn Sobejana is quick on defense and her ball-handling skills also mark her as a likely point guard in the future.
After the Mattituck game, the athletes and Coach Mulrain were pleased with the team’s improvement. Coach said that the team is learning that “hustle is a talent.”
She and the team are looking forward to the growth that comes with focused effort and time spent together on the court.
This year the team is facing nine different teams in 12 games. Their next home games are on Jan. 13 against East Hampton and a rematch against Smithtown Christian on Jan. 27.
Get out of the house and come to the gym to support your hard-working local athletes!