The Greenport/Southold girls volleyball team made a lot of noise — figuratively and literally — last season. As for this new collection of Clippers, well, you may want to turn up the volume a little bit.
When asked to identify the biggest difference between last year’s team and this year’s squad, Greenport/Southold coach Sue Kostal did not hesitate for a moment, calling last year’s Clippers louder than the current collection. “Much louder,” she said. “It’s night and day.”
Depending on the scenario, that may or may not be desirable, but one thing is for certain: The Clippers are starting over.
“It’s a big transition year,” said Kostal.
Having lost five players, all of whom played regularly, including outside hitter Shelby Kostal, the coach’s daughter who now plays for SUNY/Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, Greenport/Southold heads into the season with some unknowns.
Yet, there are some vital remnants from last year’s team, which went 12-2, losing to Babylon in the Suffolk County Class C final. Marina DeLuca, a sophomore outside hitter, was an all-league player last season. She was part of a starting lineup that included libero Samantha Henry and middle hitter Kendra King, who are both juniors.
One can envision expanded roles for the team’s two other returning juniors, outside hitter Jenna Standish and off-side hitter Meg Murray.
Ashley Billera, a defensive specialist and the team’s only senior, is looking to make an impact along with four sophomores: middle hitter Gina Anasagasti, outside hitter Rosa Hernandez and setters Sydney Mulvaney and Mercedes Edwards.
More than anything, Sue Kostal said, the younger Clippers need court experience, and there are no shortcuts to that. It takes time.
“Their skill level has to get better,” she said. “They just have to play more.”
Developing chemistry is also an important factor that doesn’t happen overnight. “It’s a small little box with six people on it that you have to be able to trust,” said the coach.
When a reporter reminded Frank Massa that last year was the first time in three years that Mattituck (6-13) didn’t make it to Glens Falls for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships, the Tuckers coach asked good-naturedly, “Are you trying to rub salt in the wounds?”
Not that reaching the Suffolk Class C semifinals — which Mattituck did, losing to Babylon — is shabby, but Massa said he does not believe the team reached its potential in 2012. The exciting prospect for him, however, is discovering the potential of the 2013 Tuckers, who have some experience and depth to draw from their 18-player roster.
Two seniors, setter Laurel Bertolas and middle hitter Shannon Dwyer, lead a cast that includes two other returning starters, sophomore setter Carly Dorhy and junior outside hitter Emile Reimer. Bertolas, who is in her third varsity year, is the team’s longest-serving player.
Also bringing varsity experience are middle hitters Pam Batist and Kayla Healy, setters Casey Rugnetta and Tricia Dorfmiester, and back-row specialists Jessica Makucewicz, Lauren Waters, Nicole L’Hommedieu and Courtney Benediktsson.
The new additions are middle hitter Colby Prokop, back-row specialist Constantina Leodis, libero Julia Orlando and outside hitters Caralee Stevens, Lizzie Wilcencki and Lisa Angell.
“I have a lot of interchangeable parts,” Massa said. “Right now, hopefully, we’re trying to preach defense because I think that more than anything else, defense is going to be our mainstay.”
The Tuckers have reached the playoffs for the past nine years, and played in county finals in seven of those years. But they will have their hands full in League VII, where the competition is expected to be fierce with Bayport-Blue Point, Elwood/John Glenn, Center Moriches, Hampton Bays and Mount Sinai.
Said Massa, “For us small guys, it’s a brutal league.”