10/18/13 7:37pm
10/18/2013 7:37 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Joscelin Morrow (left) and senior Hali Martens celebrate a Blue Waves’ point in Friday’s playoff-clinching win over Deer Park.

BLUE WAVES 3, FALCONS 1 (23-25, 25-14, 25-14, 25-12)

There was never a thought of if the Riverhead girls volleyball team would clinch a playoff spot. For coach Amy Greene, it was only a matter of when.

As the Blue Waves celebrated in the aftermath of Friday’s playoff-clinching win over Deer Park at Riverhead High School, Greene had a surprise for her players: white T-shirts proudly proclaiming the Blue Waves are playoff bound.

“These were a surprise,” said senior Hali Martens after the team posed for photos in their new shirts. “We didn’t know we were getting them, so I guess coach had a lot of faith in us.”

The Blue Waves had four matches remaining beginning Friday and needed just one win to guarantee their first playoff trip since 2010.

“I tell them I have more confidence in them than the world,” Greene said. “So I believed that they were going to get there. Whatever game they got there, those shirts were going to come out for them. It’s a little extra boost.”

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Danielle Thomas rises up at the net.

For the five seniors on varsity it’ll be their first time playing in a playoff match. The playoffs are slated to begin Oct. 31.

“It’s awesome because we’ve always been the underdog,” Martens said. “Now we came back and we’re better than ever.”

It almost looked as if the T-shirts might have be stored away for at least another match when the Falcons came out and took Game 1, 25-23, after holding off a late rally from the Blue Waves.

It was the fourth straight match Riverhead lost Game 1, but the Waves bounced back to dominate the rest of the way. Riverhead won the next three games 25-14, 25-14, 25-12.

Greene said a pep rally at the end of the school day to kick off homecoming festivities might have zapped some of the team’s energy.

“I think the girls were a little bit drained from exerting all their energy there and then coming into here,” she said. “We just needed to wake up a little bit on the court again.”

Deer Park came into the match with only one league win on its resume. But the Falcons (2-10 overall) came out strong, not giving away any easy points to Riverhead (9-3 overall) and forcing the Blue Waves to make plays.

Martens said improving communication on the court was a key to the turnaround.

Riverhead’s last playoff appearance came in 2010 when the Blue Waves, as the No. 14 seed, lost to Smithtown East in the first round.

“The loss kind of motivated us,” she said.

Martens had a big day playing outside hitter for Riverhead with 6 kills and 10 digs. Junior libero Joscelin Morrow had 41 digs and 6 service aces.

Late in Game 2, with the Falcons still hanging around, Morrow and Martens both came up with several big plays to close out the game. Morrow took the serve with Riverhead ahead 20-14. The Blue Waves closed out the game with five straight points, including a Martens kill and ace from Morrow. Middle hitter Megan Brewer delivered the final point with a kill.

In Game 3, Riverhead jumped ahead 12-4 and never looked back. Game 4 was similar as the Blue Waves led 10-1, then 17-3.

“Once we [woke up], they were relentless,” Greene said. “They were all over the floor and they were exciting to watch.”

There was some good news with the return of sophomore Dezarea Brown, who had missed a few matches with an ankle injury, Greene said. Brown played sparingly in the middle as Greene wanted to bring back along slowly.

“She came back and it was like she never left,” Martens said.

Greene said Brown’s return just adds to the Blue Waves’ depth. In her absence junior Rachel Clement got more playing time.

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Riverhead coach Amy Greene had shirts made up for her team to celebrate clinching a playoff spot.

Senior Sara Tucci had 20 assists and a pair of service aces for Riverhead.

“She does a great job getting to the ball,” Greene said. “She put her body out on the floor a few times. And she hustles to set every ball.”

With one goal complete now in making the playoffs, the Blue Waves will turn their attention to the next goal: closing out the regular season with three more wins and beating Bellport Oct. 28.

The Clippers, who are 8-1 in league, defeated Riverhead in a grueling five-set match two weeks ago.

“Our goal is to beat Bellport,” Martens said. “That’s a really big goal we have.”


10/10/13 11:12pm
10/10/2013 11:12 PM

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.

10/10/13 10:43pm
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold setter Sydney Mulvaney delivered 13 assists for the Clippers against Bishop McGann-Mercy.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold setter Sydney Mulvaney delivered 13 assists for the Clippers against Bishop McGann-Mercy.

CLIPPERS 25, 25, 18, 16, 25, MONARCHS 23, 23, 25, 25, 23

Following her Greenport/Southold girls volleyball team’s season-opening loss to Bishop McGann-Mercy, coach Sue Kostal vowed that she would have a markedly different team by the end of the season.

It didn’t take that long.

Less than a month later, the Clippers are as different as they were on opening day as night and day. That was clear Thursday when they began the second half of their season by prevailing in a five-game thriller against that same McGann-Mercy team. The young Clippers won three games by 25-23 scores, including the decisive fifth game in which they trailed virtually the whole way before rallying for the final 7 points of the match at Greenport High School.

McGann-Mercy coach Jamie Calandro called two timeouts during that run in an attempt to cool the Clippers, but it didn’t work. The Monarchs tried to pop up a hit by Greenport/Southold’s Jenna Standish on match point, but were unable to, and the Clippers rejoiced, hugging each other in celebration. With the 25-23, 25-23, 18-25, 16-25, 25-23 triumph, Greenport/Southold (3-5, 3-4 League VIII) snapped a three-match losing streak. McGann-Mercy (3-6, 3-5) suffered its fifth loss in six matches.

McGann-Mercy held a 119-109 superiority in total points and a 29-18 advantage in kills, but it wasn’t enough for the Monarchs.

Standish, the Greenport/Southold captain, was a standout, collecting 9 kills, 4 service aces and an assist. Sydney Mulvaney provided 13 assists. Sam Henry was steady at the service line, going 21 of 25, with 6 aces.

As well as Standish played, perhaps no one had a better match than McGann-Mercy’s Amanda Blacknik, who put away 14 kills to go with 4 aces and 2 dinks. The Monarchs also received 12 kills, 5 aces, 3 dinks, 2 blocks and an assist from Fiona Nunez.

Unlike McGann-Mercy, which has a more experienced team with seven seniors and a pair of juniors on its roster, the Clippers are young, with four sophomores and only one senior, Ashely Billera.


09/26/13 8:39pm
09/26/2013 8:39 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead seniors Sara Tucci (left) and Hali Martens have developed a strong rapport on the court together.

BLUE WAVES 3, EAGLES 0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-20)

On the surface, volleyball appears a simple sport. Serve the ball over the net. Dig out a return, set and hit.

Then repeat.

But in reality, the six players who share a relatively confined area on the court must operate as one cohesive unit for it all to work. As one player moves, the other five instinctively must slide into position, ready to predict where the ball will end up at just the precise time. It can all seem like random chaos.

Often, though, what appears like chaos is carefully orchestrated plays the team has rehearsed countless times in practice.

For Riverhead, the quarterback of it all is the setter — senior Sara Tucci.

“She runs all the offense on free balls, on regular plays,” said Riverhead coach Amy Greene. “Sara runs our entire offense.”

In Thursday afternoon’s League IV win over West Babylon at home, Tucci tallied 24 assists for the Blue Waves, who won in a 3-0 sweep to improve to 6-1 overall.

A three-year varsity player, Tucci often connected with senior Hali Martens, an outside hitter who’s become Tucci’s main target when setting.

In their three years together on varsity, the duo have developed a strong chemistry on the court, which was on full display against West Babylon.

“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Martens said.

Like a baseball catcher signaling the pitcher, Tucci will call the plays for Riverhead, which can be delivered via a discreet hand signal. Other times the players will quickly huddle together as to not alert the other team of an impending play. On some plays, Martens, as the hitter, will signal to Tucci where she wants to be led for a hit.

Do other teams ever pick up on it?

“We’re secretive about it,” Martens said.

Tucci added: “If we don’t do the sign, we’ll call each other over, so it’s not like we’re screaming it.”

The key to running special plays starts with defense, Greene said. The anchor of the Blue Waves’ defense is their libero, junior Joscelin Morrow. She recorded 20 digs against West Babylon and is a big part of getting the ball to Tucci.

“We all rely on everybody,” Greene said. “There’s not a one-player team. All six of those girls out there are very important.”

When Tucci prepares for a set, she always has an eye on where Martens is positioned.

“She’s a really smart player,” Tucci said. “She knows if line’s open she’s going to go line. She knows what she’s doing.”

Martens said Tucci is a deceptive player.

“She’ll trick the other team by tipping it over,” Martens said.

Greene said pushing the ball over has been something Tucci has worked on this season.

“Today she got three or four points off of that,” she said.

Midway through Game 2, Tucci had the option of setting a pass to Martens in front of her. Instead, she delivered a deft pass behind her to the Blue Waves’ towering sophomore, Dezarea Brown, who swatted the ball over the net for one of her eight kills.

It was another example of Tucci’s expanded game and ability to keep the opposing team off balance.

“Sara’s a very smart setter,” Greene said. “She knows who’s on and she sets them.”

Brown has emerged as another big target for Tucci. A relative newcomer to volleyball, Brown showed flashes Thursday of a dominant player with several of her kills and blocks.

Martens and Tucci said the older players try to help bring Brown along.

“She’s very good, but she’s very quiet,” Martens said. “Sometimes you need to go over and give her a high-five.”

With each practice and match, Brown continues to gain more experience and will become a bigger and bigger factor for Riverhead.

Brown’s height and athleticism make her a natural hitter in volleyball. At times when she jumps, it seems like half of her body is over the net, Greene said.

“It’s amazing to watch her play,” she said.

Brown’s presence on the team along with the veterans like Tucci, Martens, Morrow and seniors Danielle Thomas and Megan Brewer has the Blue Waves off to one of their best starts in recent years.

The Blue Waves are 3-1 in league heading into some of their more difficult matches next week against Half Hollow Hills West and Bellport.


09/16/13 7:13pm
09/16/2013 7:13 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Fiona Nunez supplied Bishop McGann-Mercy with 15 service aces, 8 kills and a dink against Greenport/Southold.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Fiona Nunez supplied Bishop McGann-Mercy with 15 service aces, 8 kills and a dink against Greenport/Southold.

MONARCHS 25, 20, 25, 25, CLIPPERS 16, 25, 12, 18

Anyone who was in the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School gym about 90 minutes before the Monarchs’ home-opening match on Monday would have gained insight into the behind-the-scenes life of a girls volleyball coach. For Jamie Calandro, that involves dealing with one mini-crisis after another: trying to figure out how to operate a new control panel for the scoreboard, finding replacements for broken net antennas and, oh yeah, does anyone know where the padding is for the referee’s stand?

As Calandro dealt with one issue after another, he would have been relieved to know that one thing he wouldn’t have to worry about was the play of his team.

Every point in a match starts with a serve, but with McGann-Mercy, many of them end with a serve.

The Monarchs demonstrated their serving prowess by taking the League VIII opener for both teams, 25-16, 20-25, 25-12, 25-18. McGann-Mercy recorded 40 of its 95 points on aces. Fiona Nunez (15) and Amanda Blacknik combined for 28 aces themselves. By comparison, Greenport/Southold totaled 5 aces.

“It’s huge,” Nunez said of the importance of serving. “Without serving, there’s not much you can do.”

With that in mind, McGann-Mercy (1-1, 1-0) has spent a lot of time working on serving in practice, and it appears to have made a difference.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold's Marina DeLuca swinging at the ball while Bishop McGann-Mercy's Fiona Nunez attempts a block.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold’s Marina DeLuca swinging at the ball while Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Fiona Nunez attempts a block.

“Our practices have been: serve, serve receive, repeat; serve, serve receive, repeat,” said Calandro.

McGann-Mercy put 66 of its 94 serves (70.2 percent) in play, with Blacknik going 23 for 28 and Nunez 20 for 22.

Aside from serving, the biggest difference between the teams may have been experience. Seven of the nine Monarchs are seniors and the other two are juniors. The Clippers, on the other hand, have only one senior (Ashely Billera) who hasn’t played in a while, and six players who made their varsity debut Monday in the team’s season-opening match.

McGann-Mercy may have the strongest team during Calandro’s 10-year run as its coach. Six of the Monarchs played for the team last year, but Nunez, Blacknik and Rachel Klink were the only ones who saw regular or semi-regular playing time.

McGann-Mercy lost a four-year varsity player and all-county setter, Kaylee Navarra, to graduation. Regina Viola, who was the junior varsity team’s setter last year, has shown she has capable hands, registering 15 assists on Monday. Also, Calandro has raved about outside hitter Katie Nolan, who he said “has stepped up to be an absolute force for us.”

First and foremost, though, is Nunez. The senior captain supplied 8 kills and a dink to go with her tough serving.

“For our first league game, you know, I mean still two weeks into the season, I thought they were in very good form,” Calandro said. “They showed that they had very impressive individual skills and I think the loss in the second game woke them up, and [they] saw that they had to play team volleyball, too. Then the passing was right on and the serving was right on, and they were in a rhythm.”

The sort of rhythm that the young Clippers never found. Nerves were a factor.

“It’s a lot of nerves, so we just have to get over that,” Greenport/Southold’s libero, Sam Henry, said. “Other than that, I think we played really well. We need to work more as a team, but I think we’re getting there.”

What Greenport/Southold coach Sue Kostal took away from the match was the sense that her team needs to learn how to play under varsity pressure. Henry, Marina DeLuca and Kendra King were the only Clippers with previous varsity experience. Kostal said she has juniors who lack on-court experience. “These are juniors who have been on the bench, and now they’re on the court, and it’s a completely different animal,” she said, adding that her young players have the ability but just need confidence.

A big plus for the Clippers was the play of Henry.

“I think Sam played awesome,” Kostal said. “She kept us in the game most of the time with her passing, and her serving was outstanding.”

Sydney Mulvaney had 10 assists for Greenport/Southold.

Kostal knows that young teams tend to progress dramatically, and it sounds as if that is just what she expects to happen.

“We’ll be a completely different team by the end of the season,” she said confidently. “Guaranteed.”


09/12/13 1:33pm
09/12/2013 1:33 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Joscelin Morrow digs a ball as senior Hali Martens looks on.

The key to the Riverhead volleyball team this season starts with defense. And the defense starts with junior Joscelin Morrow.

Last year, as a sophomore playing libero, Morrow was a spark plug for the Blue Waves, who finished the year with all-league honors. She was also named the League IV Rookie of the Year.

“Defensively, she’s everything on the court,” said Riverhead coach Amy Greene. “She’s been playing for so long. She’s loud and aggressive. We’re going to rely on her definitely in the back row.”

In Monday’s non-league opener at home against Shelter Island, Morrow picked up right where she left off last year by recording 30 digs in the Blue Waves’ win.

As the Blue Waves’ defense improves, Greene said the focus is turning more of those digs into points.

The Blue Waves return a lot of experience around Morrow. Senior outside hitters Hali Martens and Danielle Thomas will provide a lot of the scoring. Senior Sara Tucci returns at setter for her third year.

Seniors Megan Brewer and Allison Fox both return as hitters as well. Junior Joanna Messina returns as a hitter/setter.

The Blue Waves will feature a newcomer in the middle in sophomore Dezarea Brown, who has already made a name for herself playing basketball and running track last year. A relative newcomer to volleyball, Brown will provide a big presence at middle hitter.

The Blue Waves came up short of the playoffs last year and have their sights set on making it this year.

“There’s a lot of energy on the court with everybody returning,” Greene said.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Kelly Dillon goes up for a hit before a match against Greenport.

At Shoreham-Wading River, the Wildcats will feature a balanced roster that includes a freshman, four sophomores, four juniors and four seniors.

Oh, and one seventh-grader.

Taylor Morrell, who’s only 12, will make the bold leap to varsity this season and coach Katherine Winkler said the young girl is more than ready to handle the competition.

Morrell’s older sister played briefly at Shoreham before transferring to St. Anthony’s. Winkler said Morrell came down to an open gym practice during the offseason with her sister and instantly impressed the coaches.

Morrell will start the season as the libero.

“She’s going to become such a tremendous player,” Winkler said. “She’s just going to get better and better.”

The Wildcats return some experience in seniors Kelly Dillon (middle), Alyssa Filangeri (right side), Madison Hubner (right side/outside) and Toryn Cairo (outside). All four players are the captains. Dillon is a three-year varsity player.

Sophomores Cristina Iannacchino (outside) and Hailey Wehr (middle) are both returning players as well.

Freshman Sophia Triandafils, who played varsity lacrosse last spring, will start at setter.

“They’re very young, but the thing is they’re extremely talented,” Winkler said.

After advancing into the Class C playoffs last year, the McGann-Mercy Monarchs return a mostly new group this year, a theme that goes for most teams in their league.

The success the team had last year has the girls excited to pick up where last year’s group left off.

“They’re all friends, they talk volleyball on the side,” said Mercy coach Jamie Calandro. “They really have high hopes for this season that we’re going to take it even further than last year.”

Senior captain Fiona Nunez is one of the few returning players who saw a lot of action last year. The Monarchs will rely on her in the middle to be the team’s main hitter.

Seniors Amanda Blacknik (middle) and Kate Lewis (outside) will serve as captains as well.

The Monarchs will also feature seniors Katie Nolan (outside) and Anna Svandidze (outside/opposite). Senior Regina Viola will play setter and senior Rachel klink will play libero.

Viola takes over at setter after the Monarchs lost their all-county setter to graduation. Viola played as the JV setter last year.

“The chemistry is very good,” Calandro said.

One advantage this year for the Monarchs is that they have some height this year, Calandro said.

“We have a much stronger attack and a lot more height,” he said.

Juniors Kassandra Barty (outside) and Emily St. Louis (middle) are the only non-seniors on the team.

Mercy will open the season with a challenging non-league match Thursday against Babylon.


12/10/12 8:00am
12/10/2012 8:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead senior Megan Conroy and sophomore Joscelin Morrow, joined by coach Amy Green, received all-league honors at the all-county dinner.

Riverhead senior Megan Conroy and sophomore Joscelin Morrow were honored as all-league players for their performance during the 2012 volleyball season.

Morrow was also also selected as the League IV Rookie of the Year.

Morrow helped anchor the Blue Waves’ defense playing libero. She was a key player on serve receives, but also was talented enough to contribute in a number of other ways, including hitting from the back row.

Conroy was a versatile middle hitter whom the Blue Waves relied on to deliver big hits at the net. She was one of four seniors for Riverhead.

The Blue Waves finished the season 5-8 overall. Their final match of the season was cancelled after Hurricane Sandy disrupted more than a week’s worth of games across the county.

Conroy said after the final home match that she was looking into playing volleyball in college.

11/08/12 9:03pm
11/08/2012 9:03 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Marisa Balbo of McGann-Mercy and Shannon Dwyer of Mattituck meet at the net Thursday in the Class C out-bracket playoff match.

The McGann-Mercy girls volleyball team lost 3-1 Thursday afternoon in a Class C out-bracket playoff match at home against Mattituck. The Tuckers, who are two-time defending Long Island champions, lost the first game before bouncing back and taking the next three.

The Monarchs won a dominant first game, 25-14. But the Tuckers took over from there, winning 25-12, 25-19, 25-13.

The Tuckers advance to play top-seeded Babylon Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. Mattituck lost both matches against Babylon this season 3-0.

Mercy had its final regular season match against Port Jefferson canceled because of the hurricane. The Monarchs would have needed to win that match in order to make the playoffs. But they were able to get in once the match couldn’t be played. Mercy finished the season 5-10.

Mattituck improved to 6-12.

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