The Blue Devil varsity girls’ volleyball team came into the season last August with high hopes after reaching the Suffolk playoffs a year earlier. But Huntington wasn’t able to put together the same magic and an injury that sidelined the squad’s best player for a long stretch complicated the situation.
With most of its starters returning, Huntington thought it would be one of the best teams in the county. Instead the Blue Devils compiled an overall mark of 3-10, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Captained by seniors Cat Jamison and Maddie Reed and coached by Lauren Visbal, the roster included 12 players. Jamison was named to the All-County team.
An injury forced Jamison off the court for several weeks and her absence stung the Blue Devils. Skilled senior Steli Vlahos was also injured and that hurt, too.
“We took a step back this year,” Visbal said. “I think that even though we had a lot of losses, the team’s attitude remained positive and strong. They never gave up and that was so important. We had many close games.”
Huntington topped Comsewogue, 3-0 on September 3 and wasn’t able to win again until October 11, when the Blue Devils outlasted Half Hollow Hills East, 3-2. The team won the next meet, too, besting Copiague 3-1.
“This team has grown so close; they are like a family,” Visbal said. “They are not a team because they work together; they’re a team because they respect, trust and care for each other. Whether we won or lost, we remained together and always stayed positive.”
The team’s top players included:
Cat Jamison: The senior compiled 130 “kills,” 74 digs and 23 aces. She is headed to Bucknell University to play on its NCAA Division I team. “Cat is one of the best players to ever come through Huntington,” Visbal said. “She started her career in middle school and has been a big part of the program’s success ever since. She led the team in ‘kills’ every year and is one of the best defensive players on the team. Her leadership as a captain in her junior and senior years helped lift the team to many victories. Her presence on the court kept the team’s energy high and its spirits up.”
Maddie Reed: The talented senior has been one of the Blue Devils’ mainstays for many years. “Maddie has been a significant player on this team,” Visbal said. “Her contribution of kills (66), blocks (19) and aces (16) helped us win many games. Her ability to read her opponent and be able to defend was a key part of our success. She has worked hard all four years on varsity. This year as a captain, her enthusiasm and leadership helped keep the team strong and together.”
Shannon Kehoe: The sophomore’s sharp play became an essential component of Huntington’s program. “Shannon has really advanced our level of playing,” Visbal said. “Her setting has allowed the team more opportunities to score. She is one of the top setters in Suffolk with 295 assists. Shannon has gotten more aggressive as a player, which has helped her lead the team and make smart decisions on the court. She led the team with 39 aces with her powerful serve and also contributed 53 digs.”
Marina Durand: The junior put up impressive numbers this past fall. “Marina has really developed as a player this year,” Visbal said. “Her confidence has grown and her skills on the court have greatly improved. She quickly became a vital member of the team, contributing 52 ‘kills’ and 58 digs. Her enthusiasm helped keep the team positive in times when we were down.”
Kianna Criscuola: One of Huntington’s outstanding sophomores, she tallied 88 digs and 18 aces. Kianna is a very talented player,” Visbal said. “She can read plays incredibly well and it shows in the 88 digs she contributed this season. She also had 18 aces throughout the season with her smart serving. She is really good at strategically placing the ball on the court and is always playing aggressively, going after every ball.”
Isabella Toscano: The senior has been a longtime top player for the Blue Devils. “Izzy has worked really hard every season to improve,” Visbal said. “Her passing got better each year. Contributing 70 digs this year, she helped set the team up for opportunities to score. Her ability to cover her teammates when they were hitting saved many plays where the ball could have fallen to the ground from the blockers.”
The Blue Devils also benefitted from the inspired play of juniors Gracia Renkewitz and Sophia Severine and seniors Kiara Gelbman, Grace Heuwetter and Peyton Kalb. All five players saw time on the court and were always ready to give Huntington their all.
Huntington will return Durand, Severine, Renkewitz, Kehoe and Criscuola next fall. “It will definitely be a year of development, adding in the sophomores from the junior varsity,” Visbal said. “I have confidence in their ability to succeed.”