The setter may hold the single most vital position in volleyball. After all, a team without a setter doesn’t have any hitters.
Keeping that in mind, consider how much the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School girls team lost with the graduation of four-year varsity setter Mia Behrens.
And yet, coach Jeff Trelewicz is taking a positive outlook into the new season.
Jean, a sophomore, played some setter last year on the junior varsity team, but this year she will be setting for the varsity Monarchs, and that’s a whole different ballgame. “It will be her first time playing in a more competitive setting,” said Trelewicz. He said Jean has “great hands and she is fast. She is lightning quick.”
Jean will have hitters to set up, too, like middle hitters Mary Grace Hartmann and Lexie Cintron and outside hitter Chiara DePaola. Those juniors were all starters last year along with senior defensive specialist Libby Daddi. Hartmann was the League VIII Rookie of the Year.
The team’s only other returning player is Madelyn Knight, a senior who can play as a defensive specialist or outside hitter.
Katie Devaney, a junior defensive specialist/outside hitter who transferred last year from Shelter Island, and Ella Mysliborski, a senior opposite hitter/defensive specialist, are also new additions to a team that has only eight players.
The small roster size isn’t a problem, said Trelewicz. “We had a similar situation last year but it really worked out for us because we had a tight-knit group and our chemistry was amazing,” he said. “All the girls know each other. They’re good friends. It really creates a good situation. Nobody’s really going to be sitting on the bench because they all can contribute.”
Last year Mercy (5-7) reached the Suffolk County Class C semifinals before falling to Pierson/Bridgehampton in an epic five-setter.
Trelewicz, who is in his second year as the team’s coach, believes his offense will be a plus this year. “I have four or five hitters that can really be a threat,” he said.
As for losing Behrens, Mercy’s longtime setter, Trelewicz understands that life goes on.
“As I say to my girls every year, nobody’s irreplaceable,” he said. “They may be big shoes to fill, but your shoes grow every year.”
Two years ago Katlynn McGivney was brought up to the Shoreham-Wading River varsity team as a freshman outside hitter. Her conversion to a setter was immediate, though.
“She set a couple of balls and we were like: ‘Oh my God, you are not an outside. You are a setter,’ ” recalled coach Megan Johnson.
The all-league McGivney’s setting last year was essential to the game plan: Get the ball to hard-swinging middle hitter Courtney Wrigley. Now that Wrigley has graduated, McGivney has a multitude of targets this year.
People like junior outside hitter Emily Lynch, senior outside hitter Sarah Fabian and senior middle hitter Maegan Letscher look to be beneficiaries of McGivney’s work. Those three, along with senior libero Margo Gordon, were starters last year.
SWR (7-9), which lost to East Hampton in a Suffolk Class A outbracket match last fall, has other talent it can turn to, like right-side hitter Lindsay Deegan, libero Olivia Baudo, outside hitter Brianna Loguercio and setter Allison Devall.
Johnson is excited about freshman middle hitter Kayila Teodoro, who played junior high ball last year. Others who can hit the ball are Alyson Mallon, Anna Baumeister, Brianna Huebner and Kendall Pluschau. “It really seems like even these younger girls, it will be their first year up here, [but] a lot of them have played club, played travel,” said Johnson.
Johnson doesn’t see any reason why SWR should not be a playoff team again, especially with McGivney’s good hands.
“She’s phenomenal,” Johnson said. “She is absolutely phenomenal.”
There is one surefire way to improve as a volleyball player. That is to play, play again and then play a lot more.
It seems as if Riverhead’s players have taken that to heart. Coach Kristin Andrejack said most of her players took part in volleyball activities in the offseason, whether that be attending camps or clinics, playing club ball or participating in a summer open gym program.
When it was suggested that that sort of offseason work could be the equivalent of a school season, Andrejack said: “That and more. It’s tremendous.”
Riverhead (1-11) is still in challenging League III, which means it will tangle with tough teams such as Smithtown East and Smithtown West. But all that offseason work by the Blue Waves has already made an impression. “It shows in their skill work,” said Andrejack.
Olivia Dickerson, one of the team’s two seniors, is in her fourth varsity year. Dickerson, who can play middle or outside hitter, was an all-league selection.
“Olivia has a really nice way of balancing her intensity while still being positive,” Andrejack said. “She’s a great leader on the court.”
The other senior, right-side hitter Layne Bendernagel, is in her third year with the Blue Waves. Junior setter Coco Wharton and sophomore middle hitter Melanie Vail were starters as well. Vail was pulled up to the junior varsity team as an eighth-grader and then made the varsity team last year. Junior libero Bridget Tredwell is another returning player.
New to the team are: middle hitters Alexis Polak and Clare Stakey, setter Rebecca Bassemir, liberos Hannah Brewer and Kaleigh Seal, outside hitter Shaye Cassara and right-side hitter Elizabeth Dowd.
Andrejack said, “The passion is there, the love for the game is there and it’s just very exciting to watch.”
Photo caption: Riverhead coach Kristin Andrejack, wearing the blue headband, has been gratified by the offseason work her players have put in. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)