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10/17/16 7:15pm
Shelter Island coach Cindy Belt goes over instructions during Monday's match at Mattituck. (Credit: Bob Liepa)

Shelter Island coach Cindy Belt goes over instructions during Monday’s match at Mattituck. (Credit: Bob Liepa)

Dig Pink? Dig this.

The Mattituck High School girls volleyball team dug its special black uniforms with the pink numbers and lettering for its annual Dig Pink match on Monday. Meanwhile, coach Frank Massa must have dug the way his team played.

10/04/12 8:52pm

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shelter Island’s Katy Binder tries to block a tip by Greenport/Southold’s Megan Demarest.

INDIANS 25, 25, 25, CLIPPERS 17, 13, 22

First place in Suffolk County League VIII belongs solely to the Shelter Island girls volleyball team. At least for now.

It might have seemed reasonable to assume that since the graduation this past spring of outside hitter Kelsey McGayhey and setter Haley Willumsen, two of the better players to have ever worn Shelter Island uniforms, the Indians would experience a decline of sorts.

Not at all.

Shelter Island, which has reached the New York State Class D semifinal pool four times since 2004, is still playing at a high level. The showdown between Shelter Island and Greenport/Southold, who entered Thursday’s match tied for first place, wasn’t the competitive battle some might have expected. Shelter Island took charge of the match at Greenport High School and won in three games, 25-17, 25-13, 25-22. The Indians deserved high marks in all facets of their game, from serving to defense to passing to hitting.

One thing remains clear: The Indians can still play.

“We were really looking forward to playing Greenport,” Katy Binder, a setter and outside hitter for Shelter Island (7-1, 6-0), said. “They’re the strongest [opponent] in our league. It’s nice to be able to play at a high pace constantly and be able to push each other. It was definitely exciting. Our energy was much higher than most games we play.”

Greenport/Southold (5-1, 5-1) looked unnerved by the occasion. The Clippers fell behind by 8-0 in the first game (thanks in part to Binder’s serving), 10-1 in the second game, and were unable to recover. Their first lead came at 4-3 in Game 3 when they picked up their play noticeably. The lead changed hands three times in that game. A kill by Erin Colligan made the score 23-20 Shelter Island. Greenport/Southold kept its hopes alive when a kill by Kendra King and a block by King pulled the Clippers to within one point of Shelter Island. But the Indians benefitted from a service error by Greenport/Southold before Morgan McCarthy put a ball away for the match point.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Erin Colligan of Shelter Island sizing up a swing while Greenport/Southold’s Kendra King attempts a block.

Binder totaled 16 assists to go with four service aces, three kills and two dinks. Alexis Gibbs added six kills and Colligan had five.

Shelter Island served 13 aces and surrendered only one ace to Greenport/Southold. Gibbs went 15 for 15 from the service line.

Greenport/Southold received 16 assists from Megan Demarest and nine kills from Shelby Kostal, who put all 11 of her serves in play.

“It’s a big win,” said Shelter Island coach Cindy Belt, whose team clinched a playoff berth with the victory. “We’ve been looking forward to seeing Greenport all season because they have been steadily progressing, getting stronger, stronger and stronger, and they’ve played well at tournaments and against all the other league teams. So, coming into it, even though we’ve been playing very well, I was not overly confident we’d take the match.”

The match was a letdown for Greenport/Southold, which had played so well two days earlier when it defeated Port Jefferson in three games.

“I feel like it was nerves, a lot of nerves, because we knew this was a really big game,” Greenport/Southold’s setter, Demarest, said. “We really wanted to go out there and do our best, but I think nerves got the best of us this time.”

While noting that Shelter Island is a strong team, Greenport/Southold middle blocker Kim Bracken said the Clippers weren’t as mentally prepared for the match as they were two days earlier in Port Jefferson. In the Port Jefferson match, she said, “we were all on our game, and today there were mistakes everywhere, and instead of picking each other up, like we should have and could have, it kind of just fell apart.”

Greenport/Southold coach Sue Kostal said: “No excuses, we didn’t play well. They came in and played very well. I think that if we play our game the way I know we can play our game, I think that we can beat them as well as they can beat us.”

Both teams wore hot pink shirts during pregame warmups. It was a “Dig Pink” match, which raised money for breast cancer awareness and research.

The teams could be involved in a dramatic return match when they play their final league match on Oct. 30 in Shelter Island. That contest could decide the league championship. Shelter Island is pursuing what would be a fourth straight league title.

It’s a testament to the strength of the Shelter Island program that no less than four former team members are currently playing college volleyball: Hope Kanarvogel (Unity College in Maine), McGayhey (Springfield College in Massachusetts), Willumsen (Keane State in New Hampshire) and Stephanie Vecchio (Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire).

Shelter Island seems to have absorbed the losses of such talent as well as anyone could have expected. The small island is still producing quality volleyball players like Binder, Saverina Chicka and Gibbs, an athletic middle hitter who can crush the ball.

“I think Shelter Island plays as a team,” Belt said. “Volleyball is the ultimate team sport, so you might have a couple of players who are really strong, but two people don’t win a match. We’ve always had strong players.”

“I don’t want to hear about last year,” she continued. “I don’t want to hear about who graduated because we are the team and we are good. No excuses because we have the talent, we have the heart, we have the drive.”

And now they have sole possession of first place.

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09/16/12 9:00am

DANIEL DEMATO PHOTO | A delighted Morgan McCarthy (left), Katy Binder (7) and Melissa Ames (6) surround Saverina Chicka (center, right) and Jayme Clark as they celebrate their dramatic come-from-behind victory over Mattituck on September 7.

The 2012 edition of Shelter Island volleyball stepped onto the court on Monday, August 27 at 8 a.m.

According to both Superintendent Dr. Michael Hynes and head custodian Mike Dunning, it was a minor miracle. The school has undergone some major renovation work during the summer and the gym had been the storage area for elementary classroom equipment and the staging area for the multiple renovation projects.

Just as the school opened with a shining new face, the volleyball team also looks a bit different this year. While the varsity team graduated only two seniors, Haley Willumsen and Kelsey McGayhey left big shoes to fill. But with seven seniors on the roster, the team has plenty of eager and talented athletes ready to make their mark on the program.

Seniors Katy Binder and Melissa Ames as well as junior MeMe Lawrence will be sharing setting duties this season. Katy, also a talented hitter, will be called on to run the offense from the back row and hit in the front. MeMe and Melissa, who is back after a year as a tennis player, both attended a setter’s clinic over the summer and with each practice session their communication and hands get better.

Alexis Gibbs and Saverina Chicka, both seniors, and sophomore Tiearza Lawrence will likely get the nod as middle hitters. They will also be the primary blockers for the team. Senior Morgan McCarthy and junior Erin Colligan are slated as our outside hitters, although Morgan’s versatility will come in handy as we explore many different lineups and try to maximize the talent of each athlete.

Seniors Jayme Clark and Tara Sturges will take on the extremely important libero and defensive specialist positions. They are responsible for controlling the first touch on the ball; and without a good pass, even the more powerful offense cannot be run.

The junior varsity squad has only two new players: freshmen Colibri Lopez and Elizabeth Dunning. Both are enjoying the challenge of playing the more complex high school game after stepping up from the junior high program. Fellow freshmen Kenna McCarthy, Kelly Colligan and Margaret Michalak are in the second year of high school volleyball. Their travel volleyball experience will also give them additional confidence and leadership on the court.

Kenna will run the court as the primary setter, backed up by sophomore Taylor Rando, once she has cleared some early season health hurdles. Kelly is small but strong and her well-developed serving and hitting abilities will be counted on to power the team. Margaret, a powerful hitter, will be a linchpin in the offense. Juniors Logan Pendergrass and Libby Liszanckie round out the roster. Logan, JV’s MVP last year, will be counted on for her all round good play again this year.


Both teams met Mattituck in an early season scrimmage on September 4. Varsity mixed and matched five different lineups but played well no matter who was on the court. JV, after a slow start, also saw success.

A non-league game against Mattituck on September 7 put the varsity team to the test in an official contest. The team admitted some early season jitters, as we knew that Mattituck has a never-say-die defense and Coach Frank Massa has a way of getting the best out of his teams. The two first sets saw a point-to-point battle most of the way, with Shelter Island winning 25-18 and 25-21.

In the middle of the third set, a Mattituck kill followed by back-to-back Island service and serve-receive errors took the wind out of our sails. A tremendous rally with the score tied 23-23 ended in Mattituck’s favor after a ball-handling error later gave Shelter Island a 23-25 loss.

The team gathered. They were quiet and a bit disjointed. For a team used to winning in 3-0 fashion, they were beginning to doubt themselves. Back onto the court they went. A  few hitting errors here, miscommunication there and we found ourselves 3, then 6, then 9 points down in the fourth set.

At 9-18, there is a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it. A block by Alexis Gibbs, a tremendous dig by Morgan McCarthy and a reinvigorated Erin Colligan, who hit for a set-high 5 kills, gave the team confidence.

We began chipping away at the Tuckers’ lead. At 19-23, we gathered in a timeout and I reiterated my faith in the team’s ability to continue fighting back and to win this set and match. Two Mattituck timeouts and a Saverina Chicka kill later, we had a 27-25 victory and our first victory of the season.

2012 is a new year and Shelter Island has a new mix of athletes. But we look forward to another winning season. We’ll do it in a new way: one that spreads out the setting and hitting responsibilities while involving all members of the squads.