BLUE WAVES 17, 25, 25, 25, REDMEN 25, 17, 20, 18
The Riverhead High School girls volleyball team did not exactly get off to a rousing start against East Islip on Thursday, playing sluggishly while losing the first game.
You might say the Blue Waves were feeling, well, a bit blue due to the aftereffects of a tough loss to Suffolk County League IV leader Hauppauge last week.
That lackluster start did not last very long, though, as they bounced back in fine fashion, winning the next three games against the hosts to put themselves on the verge of reaching the Suffolk County Class AA Tournament for the first time in three years.
“It was a big-time win,” Riverhead coach Amy Greene said. “We have four more games left and we need to win one of them to make the playoffs. It’s good.”
To qualify for the postseason, teams must finish at least .500 in their league.
“It would be great to get to the playoffs again,” senior middle hitter Megan Brewer said. “I went to playoffs as a freshman, but we haven’t been there since.”
Riverhead (8-3, 5-3) hardly looked like a potential playoff team early on. After dropping the first game, 25-17, the Blue Waves won the next three over the Redmen (6-6, 3-4) — 25-17, 25-20 and 25-18.
Junior middle hitter Rachel Clement finished with 8 kills and 1 block. Junior libero Joscelin Morrow contributed 35 digs and 2 kills. Senior setter Sara Tucci added 21 assists and 16 digs, and Daniele Thomas had 5 kills and 16 digs.
But it took a while to get rolling.
“I think the regret of last game really took a toll on us,” Morrow said. “But I think it was a good warmup for the rest of the game and we put it together really well.
“Today was really important to build back our confidence. … We really needed to be the aggressor in that game. I thought we were a little timid, but we’re starting to get back that aggression … and not let them get the advantage.”
Instead, it was the Blue Waves who took advantage.
“After we picked it up it, we started playing our tone of volleyball,” Greene said. “We like to keep things fast. The faster we play, the better we are and the louder we are. When we picked up the momentum a bit we played a lot better.”
Morrow played a vital role to snap Riverhead out of its early doldrums.
“She picked it up for us, especially in that second match when we were trying to get going,” Greene said. “She was our boost on defense, picking up the ball. She was all over the floor. We can always rely on her back there to read the hits and be there. She did a nice job of that. Also in the front row, I think Megan Brewer did a real nice job at the net today, with blocking, with transitioning off to give us some kills.”
Riverhead became stronger as the match progressed and it showed in the final game. Leading by 17-16, the Blue Waves secured 6 consecutive points on Brewer’s serving to move into a commanding 23-16 lead, and never looked back.
“I was picking spots a lot more today,” Brewer said. “I have been getting better as the season goes on.”
“That leadership to take the aggression really spread to all of us,” Morrow said. “That gave us that push to finish it.”
The Blue Waves won’t have to play again until they meet Deer Park next Friday. They were scheduled to have a competition, though, a team scavenger hunt on Friday, Oct. 11. The team will be broken into smaller groups as a parent will drive them through town.
“We have to get a certain amount of things that we are asking people,” Morrow said. “It will be like a person in a yellow shirt and [we] say, ‘Can we take a picture with you?’ And then we’ll get points and win stuff.”
The winners will win goody bags.
Moreover, the Blue Waves will gain some more camaraderie.
“It’s more of just team bonding, getting the girls together and going to hang out,” Greene said. “I know they’re looking for that final prize at the end, which is that goody bag.”
If the chemistry is real good, then perhaps the real prize could be the Blue Waves reaching the playoffs for the first time in three years.