The volleyball season is ticking toward the half-way mark. Both the junior varsity and varsity teams saw lots of action this past week, showing both individual and team growth.
Southampton visited the Islanders on Monday, Sept. 18. Coach Kristin Sweeney has been working with her athletes to develop well-rounded skills, and she put the ability to be flexible to the test in a new lineup against the Mariners.
Mae Brigham was tapped to be a middle hitter instead of a setter, and her heads-up tips scored several points. Quinn Sobejana has fearless speed and good hands. She stepped up as a setter, and also achieved a personal best of 4 serves in row in the game.
Juilana Medina also served well, including an ace in the third set. Lauren Gibbs played in the middle, moving well on serve receive and sending over her trademark back row hits to score points.
Southampton took the first two sets 25-18 and 25-17, but the Islanders dug deep to win the last 25-20.
On Friday, Sept. 22, only six athletes were available to play against the Port Jefferson Royals. The boys JV soccer team, fresh off their first league win, was in the stands cheering on their classmates. Brookelyn Gulluscio, in her Official Ball Kid shirt, helped shag balls for the players as they warmed up.
With the minimum number of athletes available there were no subs, so the team calmly listened to Coach Sweeney and switched up serve receive on the fly when they got in a pickle. No mess, no fuss, and they won the next point.
Grace Catherine-Gray had a chance to serve in a game for the first time. As the ball cleared the net and dropped on the Mariner’s side the delight on her face and the happy support of her teammates was awesome to see.
Elliot Schack’s experience as a setter showed, staying calm and in control while chasing balls down around the court.
Sadie Green-Clark is also becoming more confident, and showcased some excellent serves.
Lili Kuhr has developed a strong serve. She served eight times, getting 5 aces in set 2 to help the Blue and Gray. She also scored on a terrific back row hit.
As the team gathered after the match, Coach Sweeney praised them for their effort. “You put the team first and took care of each other today. I am very proud of the six of you. Besides, we had fun.”
The varsity squad faced Southampton on Sept. 18. The Mariners featured strong serving, but our teams were evenly matched and the match went 5 sets.
Harper Congdon served well, scoring 4 aces during the match. Kaitlyn Gulluscio remained positive and proactive the entire time. Her optimism was rewarded in set three as we stormed back from a 20-22 deficit, scoring 5 points in a row to win 25-22. Unfortunately, we dropped the fourth set 25-23, and weren’t able to start fast enough in the tie-breaking shortened fifth set to get the win. We’ll get them next time!
The team faced the Ross School on Wednesday. Ross is the other Class D in Suffolk County, and we have a friendly rivalry with them. The Ravens had graduated several seniors and their relative youth was obvious. However, they had some good servers along with some tenacious defensive players.
Mackenzie Speece was fierce at the net, killing overpasses for points. Dariana Duran Alvarado has developed into a consistent server, and put over 8 serves in a row in set three. Mandy Marcello showcased her fast reflexes on blocks and tipped balls as we raced to a 25-11 win in the third set.
The 3-0 win in straight sets was the first sweep for the Islanders since 2021, and an excellent morale booster.
The final game of the week was against Port Jeff on Friday, Sept. 22. The Royals had gone to the New York State Final Four last year, winning an impressive second place in Class C.
This match featured some of my favorite plays to date. Sophie Clark is a tremendously hard-working athlete, and her focus on reading and picking up tips was impressive. Johanna Kaasik has improved her setting, and now is contributing to the offense by adding tips to her arsenal.
Kat Austin is a huge blocking presence in the middle, and it was obvious that the Royals were unaccustomed to such pressure. As they tried to go over and around the block, they missed several hits. In addition, Austin is improving her hitting timing.
Both Clark and Kaasik made heads-up saves, popping the ball up for Austin to hit away on the second hit, catching the Royals defense unprepared. To her and her teammates’ delight, Susie Kane got her first start of the season in the third set. Kane is a hard-working dual athlete and her dedication is paying dividends.
While Port Jeff took the match 3-0, we met our goal of points scored, and even forced a timeout in set 2, a definite moral victory.
Next week is another busy one. The JV squad travels to Greenport on Friday the 29th while the varsity team will attend the Center Moriches tournament on Saturday, September 30.