BULLS 3, BLUE WAVES 0
Recapturing last year’s jubilant run to the playoffs, the first in three seasons, was always going to be a challenge for the Riverhead Blue Waves this season. On top of losing several of last year’s key players to graduation, the Blue Waves bumped up a league, pitting them against a host of new, and as they’ve quickly discovered, talented teams.
Competitive matches have not eluded Riverhead, but more often than not, the wins have.
Such was the case Friday afternoon against Smithtown West. The Bulls swept the Blue Waves in three games, but it was hardly indicative of the action on the court.
“We have been right there every game,” said Riverhead coach Amy Greene. “We just can’t get over the top.”
The Bulls won three competitive, back-and-forth games at Riverhead High School, 25-19, 26-24, 25-22.
A rally in the second game brought the Blue Waves within three points of a win at 22-20 for a chance to even the match. But the Bulls rallied for the next four points to regain the lead and eventually take the game and a commanding 2-0 lead.
“We’re adjusting really well,” Greene said of the increased competition this year. “Just to stay in games like this, keep it close, is something that I’m looking for.”
The loss dropped the Blue Waves to 2-6 in league and 5-7 overall. The Blue Waves would need to sweep the final four matches of the season for a repeat trip to the playoffs. And unbeaten Smithtown East still looms on the schedule in the final match of the season.
That’s a match the Blue Waves are still looking forward to.
“The girls’ biggest goal right now is they’d like to take a game from Smithtown East, if not beat Smithtown East” Greene said.
The Blue Waves were without one of their top hitters against the Bulls Friday. Dezarea Brown was out with a sprained ankle, an injury that has kept her sidelined for about two weeks so far, Greene said.
Brown’s towering presence in the middle is hard to replace.
“She always has great hands up on the net,” Greene said. “So we miss that blocking. Her hands are definitely what scares the other team.”
Joanna Messina rotated from an outside hitter to middle to replace Brown with Rachel Doroski and Casey Plitt filling the outside positions. Mieko Vail then saw an increased role in the back row, Greene said.
Mackenzie Heldberg, an outside hitter, created a good portion of the offense for Smithtown. A hard hitter, Heldberg led the team in kills and was often there with a big play just as the momentum began to swing toward Riverhead.
Greene said they did their best to avoid Heldberg, but there’s only such much a team can do to avoid the opponents’ top hitter from loading up.
“We have our middles cheat to her wherever she is,” Greene said. “And Joscelin [Morrow] knows to read her shoulders and we double block her. When you have really great players that are putting the ball away, it’s hard.”
Morrow, the defensive specialist at libero, was all over the court, making diving plays throughout the match. It’s something the Blue Waves have come accustomed to over her varsity career.
As a senior now, Morrow’s career at Riverhead is winding down. Undoubtedly, her shoes will be difficult to fill next year.
“She picks up every ball on defense, she reads the ball really well, she reads the hitters,” Greene said.
Morrow is hoping to continue her volleyball career in college next year. Greene said Morrow has narrowed her choices down to two schools.
“She definitely wants to play volleyball in college, so that’s her big goal right now,” Greene said.