Big week in volleyball: Dig Pink, Senior celebration

The week of October 9 seemed like a highlight reel for Shelter Island volleyball. On Tuesday, Oct. 10 the JV and varsity teamed up for a festive Dig Pink celebration and fundraiser. Generous fans helped raise $580.75 which will be donated to the Side-Out Foundation to fund cutting edge research on Stage IV breast cancer. Oct. 11 was the JV’s evening, winning their match against the Southampton Mariners in fine style. The Friday, Oct. 13th Senior Game against the Ross School was a showcase of family and community support as every member of the varsity team contributed to a sweep over the Ravens.


In addition to the Dig Pink event, there was also some nice volleyball played in the decorated gym on Oct. 10. The JV faced the Babylon Panthers and came away with a win in the third set while the visitors took the first two. 

For the varsity, this match was much better than the previous showing against Babylon, just one week earlier. Susie Kane had entered the gym and donned her volleyball uniform fresh from her cross-country race where, cheered on by her volleyball teammates, she posted a personal record (PR) on SI’s home course at Goat Hill. Our serve receive was markedly better, which allowed us to generate far more offense. Sophie Clark and the libero had a battle of wills as Clark swung powerfully on her attacks. It was very fun to watch. Babylon is a bigger school and currently has a stronger program than SI’s, so having their coach call a timeout in set two was a moral victory.  


Oct. 11 was a night for victories (AKA wins, or dubs as in W). As the volleyball team’s van pulled up to the school parking lot, it was closely followed by the soccer and Junior High cross country teams’ bus. Both the JV and varsity volleyball team had just finished winning their match against Southampton. The soccer team had beaten Riverhead Charter School. The cross-country team had turned in nice race times. It was a joyful night to be an Islander.

While the JV have won sets in nine out of eleven matches this year, they have fallen just short of grabbing a full match victory. When they faced the Mariners on Sept 18, the writing was on the wall that with just a little improvement we could beat them. That came true on Oct. 11. 

The Islanders came out fast in the first set, with multiple athletes scoring service aces. Mae Brigham, Lili Kuhr, Lauren Gibbs each broke out fast and tricky serves. However, the use of three hits was also occurring. Elliot Schack calmly passed the ball to Quinn Sobejana who got it up to Brigham who put it over for a kill, putting the Islanders up 16-10. Student Manager Keili Osario Lopez who has been recording stats for the team also cheered loudly. SI took the first set 25-17.

The second set wasn’t as easy. After a brief Islander lead sparked by Sadie Green-Clark’s heads up play to save a shanked serve receive, the Mariners started a comeback. There were some communication shortfalls for the blue and gray, and the Mariners went from being 4 points down to 6 points ahead. After regrouping, some nice saves by Sobejana and Green-Clark allowed the Islanders to tie up the score at 22-22. Two Gibbs’s aces and a beautiful tip by Schack sealed the match win, 25-22.

The final set also featured a nice comeback by the Islanders, although it fell just short. Grace Catherine-Gray got into the mix, putting up a nice set. She also had the chance to serve. Juliana Medina has really started to move well on the court, and her heads-up serving, along with a nice back row kill by Kuhr helped the blue and gray close the gap before the Mariners took the final set 25-21.

However, the happy Islanders came away with the match win. Coach Kristin Sweeney noted, “All your hard work has really come together today.”


The final home game of the year is always special. While the season isn’t over, it marks the last time the seniors will play on their home court, and is often a sentimental moment. Family and friends gather and younger athletes pay tribute to the leaders on the team. Flowers and family photos round out the special memories.

In honor of the occasion all six seniors were on the court to start the game. Normally middle hitters Kat Austin and Mackenzie Speece work hard in the front row, and libero Harper Congdon takes over defensive and serve receive duties in the back row for them. However, for most of the first set, Austin and Speece also played the back row. Austin, who has been working hard on serving all season, also scored three service points, including an ace. Speece scored four kills during the match, often placing them into the hard to defend corners of the court.  The first set was a relatively easy win, 25-15.

In set two Dariana Duran Alvarado served extremely well, serving six in a row, including two aces. Kaitlyn Gulluscio had a beautiful swing on the right side, which landed for a kill down the line. Johanna Kaasik also was serving well and we got out to a ten-point lead, 15-5. But the Ravens have improved tremendously from their early season, and they began a comeback getting as close at 21-20 before a couple of errors on their part, another ace by Kaasik and a kill by Sophie Clark won the set for the blue and grey, 25-21.

A bit chagrinned at the lull in the middle set, the Islanders set their sights on winning in three to get the sweep. Susie Kane contributed to the effort by both saving a point with a nice pass over the net, and also stretched her comfort zone to try serving in a game. Mandy Marcello’s serving has been great the second half of the season, and she served seven in a row, with two aces. Congdon quietly got things done on defense, popping up Ross’s balls for the Islanders to convert to offense. Clark, who has stepped up big in clutch moments for the team all year scored on a beautiful hit on the right side, then sealed the win with a trademark tricky tip. 

With that 25-17 win, the match victory was ours. Fans roared their approval as the teams met at center court for the traditional post-match handshake, creating great memories for our seniors.

While beating Ross, the only other Class D team in Suffolk County, isn’t a rubber stamp and the current 5-win season isn’t a guarantee that we will be advancing to the playoffs, the Islanders are confident that our season won’t be ending on October 18 after our final league game against Mattituck.

I was very pleased with the team’s ability to get back on track, and focus to get the win against Ross. They have been improving steadily all season, and are really peaking at the right time. At the start of the season, I asked each player to write down three goals for the team, and three personal goals. Susie Kane, brand new to the sport and the team, posted the audacious goal of five wins for this season. With the Ross victory, we now have five wins in hand. 

With hopes for moving on to post season, I think it is time to write some new even bolder goals. Let’s add to that highlight reel!