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.”

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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.

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09/13/12 11:24pm
09/13/2012 11:24 PM

BILL LANDON PHOTO | McGann-Mercy senior Danielle Gehring helped lead the Monarchs to a win over Stony Brook Thursday night.

MONARCHS 3, BEARS 2 (22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 26-24)

After four exhausting games, the match knotted at two, and the decisive fifth game hanging in the balance, McGann-Mercy senior Kaylee Navarra cradled the ball on the back line, waiting to deliver the all-important serve.

The Monarchs and Bears of The Stony Brook School had battled to this point by trading massive runs, each team seizing the momentum at times, only to have it slip away.

The Monarchs found themselves with their backs squarely against the wall as the serve came to Navarra and her team trailing 24-23, one point away from defeat in Game 5 at McGann-Mercy High School Thursday night.

In the first two years of her varsity career, Navarra likely would have never found herself in this position. But now? There’s no one Mercy coach Jamie Calandro would rather have with the ball.

“She’s been like the setter extraordinaire for four years, but inconsisent when it comes to serving, to the point where in her freshman and sophomore year, I’d sub her out,” Calandro said. “This year, we played a tournament at Bay Shore last Saturday and she showed quite a lot of consistency when it came to serving.”

Navarra’s first serve rocketed toward Kaera Vancol, who couldn’t control the ball as it deflected behind her and out of play. Tied game.

The next serve shot across the court toward the right line, nearly going out of bounds, before a Stony Brook player attempted to play it and couldn’t keep it in play. 25-24 Mercy.

With one point to go, Navarra dropped in another ace, clinching a 3-2 Monarchs victory as the players jumped together on the court in celebration.

“The past teams I coached lose that game,” Calandro said. “When you get down, they kind of run out of gas. But now I hold them to a high standard to make sure they play every point and play to the end.”

In a wild back-and-forth match, the Monarchs fell behind 7-0 in Game 5, the largest deficit they faced all night. But the Monarchs knew on this night no lead was safe. Mercy already saw a nine-point lead in Game 1 evaporate and an 11-0 lead in Game 4 disintegrate. Both games ended in Stony Brook victories.

“This game was all about momentum and about trying to take momentum back for both teams,” Calandro said.

The Monarchs had the final run and with it, their first victory of the season in League VIII.

After the best season in the program’s brief history last year ended one win shy of the playoffs, the Monarchs come into this season with a mostly new starting lineup. Navarra was the only full-time starter who’s back. Fellow senior and captain Marisa Balbo saw a lot of time last year, but didn’t always start.

The Monarchs lost three all-league players from last season, raising some questions as to how the new group would come together early in the season.

“I didn’t know if they knew exactly how they would mesh right away,” Calandro said. “But I think this is going to be the confidence game. If they can pull of this one, they can hang with anyone in this league.”

Both teams struggled throughout the match with serve receiving, leading to an abundance of aces. “Too many aces,” Calandro said. Both teams got on long streaks and for Stony Brook, mostly behind Katie Dahlseide.

The lefty vaulted Stony Brook back from a 20-11 hole in Game 1. She ran off nine straight service points to give the Bears a 21-20 lead. They went on to win the game 25-22, a tough blow for Mercy to bounce back from.

Stony Brook carried that momentum into an 8-2 lead in Game 2, only to see the Monarchs rally back and win the second and third games and go ahead 2-1.

And just as it looked like Mercy had the match in hand with an 11-0 lead in Game 4 behind some outstanding serving from  junior Amanda Blacknik, the Bears climbed their way back into the game and pulled ahead with Dahlseide on the serve. Stony Brook closed the game out on an 11-2 run to send the match to a fifth game.

Calandro said the Monarchs struggled with the left-handed serve from Dahlseide.

“The angle coming from the left hand into the back position is odd,” he said. “I guess we haven’t practiced that enough, which we should because we have three lefties.”

Blacknik was one of those lefties who caused problems for Stony Brook.

Senior Danielle Gehring helped spark the Monarchs in Game 5 with several aces, the last of which gave the Monarchs a 9-8 lead.

Calandro said senior Caitlyn Walsh has been a much improved player this season who’s developed into a key starter.

“She’s someone I know if the ball is served to her, she’s going to pass it to the setter,” he said.

Junior Fiona Nuñez had a strong game for the Monarchs as well, delivering big kill after big kill.

The Monarchs have  a week off before returning to the court next Thursday at Greenport.

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09/14/11 12:16pm
09/14/2011 12:16 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Amy Bullock now coaches the Riverhead team she used to be a star middle hitter for.

Amy Bullock has already brought back bad memories to opposing coaches.

Bullock (Class of 2003) was one of the best volleyball players to ever come out of Riverhead High School. As a hard-swinging middle hitter with springs in her feet, Bullock was a four-year varsity player for the Blue Waves, and the Suffolk County player of the year as a senior.

She was converted to an outside hitter at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she became a rookie of the year and all-conference first team player.

Now Bullock is back in Riverhead, this time as coach of the varsity team she used to play for. Coaches from other teams haven’t forgotten her, either. Bullock said they tell her, “I remember you; you’re the one who always gave us trouble.”

Now Bullock hopes her team gives opponents trouble this season.

The Blue Waves (6-9 last year) are coming off a season in which the team’s former coach, James Korte, guided them to the playoffs. They lost to the Smithtown East Bulls, 25-15, 25-15, 25-9, in the first round of the Suffolk Class AA Tournament.

Five players graduated from that team, but the Blue Waves still have four returning starters who are ready for their senior season: outside hitter Mariah Messina, middle hitter Fatima Brown, right-side hitter Kiana Wiwczar and setter Alyssa Meyer. Messina made the academic all-county team.

In addition, outside hitter Amber Brewer and middle hitter Megan Brewer are varsity veterans as well.

Middle hitter Megan Conroy, libero Rebecca Lessard, setter Sara Tucci, right-side hitter Allison Fox, outside hitter Danielle Thomas and middle hitter Hali Marten complete the squad.

Not all of those players are immediately available, though. Messina will be out for two weeks with mononucleosis, and Brewer will be out for about a week with a thumb injury, said Bullock.

Bullock, who has coached the junior varsity team the past two years, likes what she has seen.

“They are a pleasure to work with, on and off the court,” she said. “They come to practice and they work hard. … The dedication and hard work that these girls give when they come in the gym every day is amazing.”

Bullock said the Blue Waves need to work on their defense, but she said she is enthused by the work ethic of the players.

“Every day when I walk into that gym, it puts a smile on my face,” she said. “I push them to the limit because I know that they can do it.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Outside hitter Kaylin Hammond is one of Bishop McGann-Mercy's five returning starters.

The early signs are encouraging for the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs (3-11). For one thing, it helps when five of six starters return. It’s also an indication that things are headed in the right direction for the Monarchs that 43 players tried out for the varsity and junior varsity teams.

“People had to really earn their spots,” said Coach Jamie Calandro, who had made it clear during the tryout phase that no roster spots were guaranteed.

In the end, Calandro retained 10 players, which he said is a good number to work with for the varsity squad. “I’m not going to have anybody sitting on the bench for any length of time,” he said.

Calandro said the five returning starters — outside hitters Mairead Glynn and Kaylin Hammond, middle hitter Elizabeth Hartmann, setter Kaylee Navarra and opposite hitter Anna Crowley — will remain in the starting lineup. They are all seniors except for Navarra, a junior. Hammond was an all-league player last year.

Not only that, but middle hitter Shannon Nunez, libero Alexa Klink, and middle hitter Marisa Balbo also offer prior varsity experience.

The only new additions are outside hitter Caitlyn Walsh and opposite hitter Fiona Nunez, who is Shannon’s sister.

The Monarchs have never qualified for the playoffs in their five-year varsity history, during which time they have gone 6-54, but perhaps they made be able to change that this year.

“I think this year is the year we’re capable of making playoffs,” Calandro said. “It’s been a long experience with a couple of more wins every year. … They finally feel like they’re one of the teams to beat.”

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