FALCONS 3, BLUE WAVES 0 (25-13, 26-24, 25-21)
As a libero — the defensive specialist in volleyball who wears a different color shirt than her teammates — Riverhead sophomore Joscelin Morrow doesn’t get opportunities to hit at the front of the net. The position restricts her to the back row, but it doesn’t mean she still can’t hit.
As Morrow showed off in Friday night’s 3-0 League IV loss at home against Deer Park, she has the ability to deliver strong hits from the back row, despite the difficult angle and the fact she’s not as tall as most of her teammates.
It’s a unique skill, one that makes her that much tougher on the court.
“You can’t count her out,” said Riverhead coach Amy Bullock. “She’s all over the floor. As she gets older she’s going to be a big key for the program. She’s a great all-around player.”
Ultimately as a libero her role is about defense. And nearly every time the ball came soaring across the net Friday, Morrow was there to dig it out.
At the beginning of the season Bullock talked about serve receive being a key for the Blue Waves. Without it, it’s impossible to get the good set and a strong hit.
“Having her has been a great impact for our defense,” Bullock said.
The defending league champion Falcons (2-3 League IV) provided a strong test for the Blue Waves, who after a sluggish first game battled closely. Riverhead dropped the first game 25-13 before playing two entertaining back-and-forth games that could have gone either way. Deer Park won Game 2, 26-24, and closed out the match with a 25-21 win in Game 3.
The Falcons advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class A playoffs last season and return several key players from last season, including some tough hitters. Junior Julia Connolly, the League IV Rookie of the Year last season, had a strong game for the Falcons as an outside hitter.
For the Blue Waves, they’ll try to build on the positives from the second and third games.
“It’s back to the basics again,” Bullock said. “Working on our defense and getting our balls up to target.”
The Blue Waves (1-3 League IV) were on the verge of evening the match in the second game. They led nearly the entire game, including 22-19. The Falcons rallied for the next three points and tied it with a big block in the middle from the duo of Sam Pazenbeck and Alex Santora.
Riverhead got the next two points, including one on a kill from outside hitter Hali Martens, to get within one point of victory. But the Falcons got the next four points to steal the game and take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Martens provided most of the kills for Riverhead and has been a huge part of the offense all season, Bullock said.
“She’s been moving well, attacking well, her confidence has definitely improved big time from last year,” she said. “I tell her that she wants to be the go-to girl with our attack.”
The Falcons took control of Game 3 behind Connolly on the serve. She had four straight service points, capped by an ace, to give Deer Park a 13-9 lead after Riverhead opened up with a fast start. The Falcons never relinquished the lead, although Riverhead kept it close. After a kill from middle hitter Megan Conroy and ace from Allison Fox, the Blue Waves closed to within a point at 16-15.
But they couldn’t get any closer.
Bullock said Conroy has made big strides this year as well.
“Her movement has improved really well,” she said.
The Blue Waves couldn’t get much of anything going in the first game. Bullock called an early timeout after Deer Park scored the first four points, but it still took until the second game for the Blue Waves to get some momentum.
“It’s like we were the away team when we started off,” Bullock said. “All credit to Deer Park. They came out strong after a long bus ride. We were sleeping, a little bit slow. We didn’t move to the ball and the biggest thing, we didn’t communicate.”
Bullock said the way the team bounced back in the second and third games shows the Waves can compete with good teams.
“They came back really strong,” she said. “They got the pass up, which is what we needed from our serve receive and we were able to get a couple balls, but not enough.”