Two-a-days. Conditioning and strength circuits. Learning or re-learning all the details of both offensive and defensive positions.
Those who have played sports know the exhilaration and exhaustion that comes with starting a new season.
On Monday, Aug. 21, at 8 a.m., the Shelter Island volleyball team started practices. Coaches Cindy Belt and Kristin Sweeney (formerly Andrejack) met with the athletes who will be representing the school and community over the next few months. Over the next six days, there were 11 practices, with the team growing stronger and more connected at each one.
The beginning of the season is an exciting time. The graduation in June meant that some leaders have moved on to colleges or other life experiences. The current seniors, Class of 2024, are stepping into new roles. Not only are there emerging leaders, but other members have worked out over the summer or attended camps. Their improved skills are great to see.
We have 18 players between the junior varsity and varsity squads. Ninth graders Sadie Clark, Rosie Hanley and Juliana Medina all played volleyball last year, but are new to the demands of high school ball. They are already settling into the routine and picking up the nuances of the more advanced strategies.
The seven sophomore athletes represent our largest class. Several of these players have club volleyball experience, which gives them a broader view of the sport. Mae Brigham, Grace Catherine-Gray, Lauren Gibbs, Lili Kuhr, Mandy Marcello, Elli Schack and Quinn Sobejana all played for the Islanders last season. Each is already impressing the coaches with their improved ball control, more consistent serving, or more aggressive hitting.
Dariana Duran Alvarado and Johanna Kaasik are making the jump to varsity this year and are the only two juniors are on the roster. Both are taking the faster game and tougher expectations in stride, showing up and working hard every day.
Six seniors lead the team. Kat Austin, Sophie Clark, Harper Congdon, Kaitlyn Gulluscio and Mackenzie Speece bring the experience from their 2022 Class D championship campaign. Susie Kane is brand new to the sport, but her background in dance and fitness is serving her well and she is learning fast.
The versatility of each is also impressive. Some players initially pegged as hitters have been willing to try the role of setter, or vice versa. Smaller athletes are proving that having a shorter stature does not mean they can’t be effective offensive players. Others are able to swing at balls from all areas of the court, bringing a boon to our offense.
Tuesday, Aug. 29, the team traveled to Miller Place for a scrimmage to gain some live experience against another team. The official league season opens on Thursday, Aug. 31, when the hard-hitting Center Moriches Red Devils visit for a 10 a.m. JV and 11:45 a.m. varsity contest.
I am anticipating a fun year filled with growth — hopefully culminating in another Class D championship.
Come support your Islanders!