BLUE WAVES 25, 25, 25, BULLDOGS 21, 20, 14
The Riverhead High School girls volleyball team might be thinking, if only the entire season was played against North Babylon, then things could be different.
But, of course, that is not how it works. In what has been a rough season in terms of wins and losses, the Blue Waves are 2-0 against North Babylon, but 0-10 against everyone else.
Both teams were in the same position before Friday’s match — at the bottom of Suffolk County League IV with identical records.
“It’s so much more frustrating that we’re losing when we know we can win, and I know we can win,” Riverhead outside hitter Mariah Messina said. “That’s the only frustrating part.”
The Blue Waves showed they can win on Friday. They surely have North Babylon’s number.
Sara Tucci, a sophomore setter, had eight assists and served for four aces for Riverhead, which scored a 25-21, 25-20, 25-14 win over the visiting Bulldogs, snapping a six-match losing streak.
“We knew we could do it, but it was kind of tough because they’re a really scrappy team, so they’re going to run and get everything,” said Riverhead middle hitter Fatima Brown.
Riverhead’s first-year coach, Amy Bullock, said she knew this would not be an easy season. But she has been heartened by the noticeable improvement she has seen over the course of the campaign. More accurate passing has allowed the Riverhead setters, Tucci and Alyssa Meyer, to work on quick sets, which can be almost unstoppable when run correctly.
“They definitely have improved greatly, and they deserve a win like this today,” Bullock said. “Their attitudes are great, and every day they come to practice ready to play, no matter what.”
Megan Brewer put all 20 of her serves in play for the Blue Waves (2-10, 2-8), and five of them were aces.
Valerie Amengual had five kills, three dinks and a block for North Babylon (1-11, 1-9). The Bulldogs have lost eight straight matches since they lost to Riverhead in five games on Sept. 22.
“It’s been a rough season,” said Greg Bentivegna, who is in his second year as North Babylon’s coach. “It’s been hard, but the bottom line is tonight they played good volleyball, and they’re fighting. I think it’s about learning to win because if you string it all together, they obviously have the ability to do it. It’s just making it all fit together.”
With only three seniors, the Bulldogs are battling inexperience. Riverhead has four seniors: outside hitter Kiana Wiwczar, Brown, Messina and Meyer.
“We are such a good team in practice,” Messina said. “We can kill the ball. We can do good plays. We can have so much fun and play together, but then when it comes to games, sometimes we lose our energy. We get frustrated.”
Frustration wasn’t in the lineup on Friday, though. While the record may not reflect it, the gains Riverhead has seen have been noticed by outsiders as well.
“I can see Riverhead’s improving; I can see our team’s improving, absolutely,” Bentivegna said. “You’re definitely coming along, but of course, every team is improving as you go along, so the games aren’t getting any easier. They’re definitely getting more difficult.”
Brown said Riverhead’s ability to work as a team and stay close has been a great help during trying times.
“On the court, it’s not six different girls,” she said. “It has to be like one girl playing, so you have to have that mentality that we’re all the same, we’re all good.”
Bullock said her team’s passing is 10 times better than it was earlier in the season. Looking at the larger picture, the Blue Waves should be in a better situation next year.
“I can’t say how much I’m proud of these girls just for sticking with it every day,” Bullock said. “With all this hard work, I know we’re going to end this season on the right note.”