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Girls Volleyball: With Porters, just about everything is new

You know that new car smell?

Greenport/Southold has a new volleyball smell.

Evidence of that newness is seen from the new gym floor on the Porters’ home court at Greenport High School to the school’s new volleyball setup (posts, net, referee stand included) to new uniforms to new balls and even to new players.

In their third match of the season Tuesday, the Porters experienced a new feeling: They won a set.

“We definitely got better as a team today,” said junior middle hitter Emily Russell.

The team’s first win will have to wait, though. Coming off an 0-12 season last year and straight-set losses to Pierson/Bridgehampton and Stony Brook this year, Greenport took host Port Jefferson to a fourth set before falling, 25-21, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16.

The Porters’ new uniforms — designed by coach Mike Gunther’s wife, Carolyn, the team statistician — are a colorful burst of purple, black, red and white. They bring out the colors of the two schools they represent, but they also represent more to Mike Gunther.

“To me the newness is that there’s an investment not just in the kids, but there’s an investment in the idea that it is one,” he said. “Greenport and Southold need to be more united.”

How “new” is this new Greenport team?

Sophomore setter Elizabeth Jernick and Russell are the only returning players from last year with starting experience. The team’s new captains, outside hitters Kathleen McCabe and Annette Newman, are the only seniors. Seven of the team’s 11 players are varsity rookies.

Not surprisingly, the playoffs are a long shot that got a tad bit longer following Tuesday’s match.

With first-string middle hitter Isabelle Higgins injuring her ankle the day before, Jessica Mele, who had been training as a setter, was moved to the starting middle hitter position against Port Jefferson (2-2, 2-1 Suffolk County League VIII).

Greenport got off to a flying start. A pair of aces by Jernick (21-for-21 serving, four aces) and a few service errors by Port Jefferson helped the Porters to a 7-0 lead in the first set. They stretched that lead to 17-7 and things were looking good for them.

But Gunther sensed the fragility of the situation. “I’m thinking one missed serve could turn the whole thing around because this is a balloon that could be popped easily right now,” he said.

Sure enough, the balloon popped. Port Jefferson mounted an unlikely comeback behind Taylor Catoggio’s strong serving. The junior put all 10 of her serves in the set in play, including three aces down the stretch.

Greenport blew a 10-4 lead in the second set, fell behind 24-17 and looked as if it would pull off a comeback of its own. But after running off five straight points, the Porters lost the final point on a service error.

They had to wait until the net set for their first set win of the young season.

Catoggio finished with 12 aces from 26-for-29 serving.

Serve receive was an issue for Greenport, which conceded 26 aces.

“All these little, little, minor details that I am so focused on, I don’t know that they understood, the newer kids, how important those are,” Gunther said. “We’re 0 and 3 because we haven’t taken care of the minor details.”

Russell, who had seven kills, said, “We definitely need to work on confidence because we don’t expect to win because we think we’re so young and not as experienced as the other teams, but it’s definitely possible.”

Is there a win on the horizon for Greenport?

“I definitely see a win,” Jernick said. “We just have to keep on working.”

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Photo caption: Greenport/Southold players huddle during their match against Port Jefferson. (Credit: Bob Liepa)