The early winter volleyball season for high school girls has come to an end. This season always seems to fly by as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays both fall within this time frame.
As usual it was great to see the big strides the team has made in just a few weeks.
Coach Laura Mayo leads the team and faced a unique challenge. Last year there was no competition season for 7th and 8th graders due to the first wave of COVID.
She could only practice with the numbers in separate pods to learn skills. Without interscholastic competition or mixing of the numbers, it was impossible to work on game scenarios. That means she packed all the essentials – being a team, the rules to play competitively and the philosophy of adapted sports – all into this season.
There were a total of eight athletes on the roster, all 8th graders. However, between school conflicts and health complications, there were never more than seven players participating in games, and often there was the bare minimum of six.
Since there was no one to exchange, each athlete had to have confidence in herself and give her best before every match.
When I saw the team play it was great to see that few balls fell between the players. The girls moved well to cover the field and worked hard to use all three allowed hits.
It’s a tough lesson to learn – the easiest way to score points at this level is simply to get the ball back over the net. Even parents need to learn the pass-set-hit mantra. Patience and confidence in the long-term payback period takes practice.
Coach Mayo decided to treat this group as a junior varsity team. As each player learned each skill, she also practiced switching to a specific “base” on the field.
This requires concentration and keeping up with rotations, something we don’t normally need at junior high level. The athletes took advantage of the opportunity and will have a head start when they step into the gym next fall.
The team was competitive in every match, winning nearly half of their matches and normally winning at least one set of every three-set match.
This group of athletes is eager to learn. Mae Brigham consistently calls for the ball and loves to challenge herself with more difficult playing skills. Lauren Gibbs is another tall player who shows some nice batting potential, as well as moving and moving well towards the ball.
Lili Kuir has a great positive attitude and is a good passer-by. Although she is small in stature, she has learned to adapt well and took pride in hitting the ball over the net during spiking training. Mandy Marcello is naturally athletic and has very good mechanics. She has a fierce serve and is also aggressive at the net.
Keili Osorio trained with the team, but did not have the opportunity to participate in competitions. She shows enthusiasm and is a very coaching player. Jade Samuelson is not afraid to go to the ball and often goes to the floor to play. Her increasing confidence in serving is nice to see.
Elena Schack is another player who likes to work hard to improve. She moves well to the ball and her setting has really come along well over the season. Madison Sobejana shows her running skills in her fast feet. She has quick reflexes and is always ready to go to the ball.
Coach Mayo is proud of the team’s progress. At the start of the season, the girls were often self-conscious when they made a mistake, missed a serve or lost a set.
By the last game on January 10, they had matured as players and were able to step back and evaluate how they could improve their skills without blaming themselves.
One of the best things about sitting in the stands during a game is listening to comments from parents and younger siblings. The positive cheers of “nice try” and “let’s go Shelter Island” were great to hear.
My favorite moment came from a group of young elementary girls watching the players on the field and dreaming about when they too would be able to fit in and be part of a team. The crowd of admirers cheered their mentors, shouting, “Go on, girl bosses!”
Unwittingly, they reflected the positive qualities of a strong, confident young woman, which you can get through exercise.
Girl bosses, indeed.
Congratulations on a great season, ladies!