Jocelyn Thorbourne digs out the ball. (Darin Reed photo.)
Jocelyn Thorbourne digs out the ball. (Darin Reed photo.)

Finley Girls’ Volleyball Players Display Talent

january 18, 2023

Lauren Blackburn was happy with what she saw on the court as her J. Taylor Finley Middle School girls’ volleyball team displayed real potential for future success at the high school level.

Finley put many talented players on the court. (Darin Reed photo.)

A Huntington High School physical education teacher, Blackburn coached the varsity at Cold Spring Harbor for many years before joining the Blue Devil family. She currently coaches Huntington’s JV team and added responsibilities at Finley when Huntington UFSD created a second girls’ volleyball team at the middle school level to meet surging interest.

Blackburn’s 20-player team was led by eighth graders Jocelyn Thorbourne, Madyn Kalb, Khi Casey, Madeline Falk, Ana Vlahos and Manpreet Kaur and seventh grader Bella Duke.

“Jocelyn has really developed as a setter this year, even setting right side during practice, which is typically a skill you only see at the JV level or up,” Blackburn said. “She had several aces during our season and really dictated the offense that our team ran this season.”

Kalb excelled as a hitter and setter. “Madyn is a very versatile player, being able to both hit and set,” Blackburn said. “Her footwork and quickness to get to the ball is outstanding and she has a very strong serve.”

Casey also shined on the court. “Khi led the team in blocks this season and had a lot of key plays at the net,” Blackburn said. “Her approach is very smooth and she has a really great swing, leading to a lot of kills this season.”

Falk emerged as a possible future Blue Devil star. “Madeline is a natural volleyball player.,” Blackburn said. “She has a really high vertical jump and a great topspin serve that was very difficult for our opponents to receive. Her approach really developed this season too as she also led the team in kills.”

Vlahos displayed her value to the team in a variety of ways. “Ana was a really great defensive player this year, always covering the middle of the court,” Blackburn said. “She is always hustling after the ball to make sure that the play does not end.”

Kaur was impressive as a setter. “Manpreet is another player who really kept us in games defensively,” Blackburn said. “In one play, she ran across the entire court and dove onto the bench to make a save and win the point.”

Duke proved she was comfortable anywhere on the court. “Bella was new to volleyball this year, but you couldn’t tell,” Blackburn said. “She has natural setter footwork and a really great serve.”

The highlight of the season came against Kings Park. “Our win right before the holiday break was one of our biggest accomplishments this season,” Blackburn said. “The team did everything that we had been working on during practices and pulled together to beat a really tough team.”

Blackburn feels she has a strong group of players, who will eventually help Huntington’s varsity rise in the standings.

“We had a really great season and I am so proud of all of the girls for all of their hard work,” Blackburn said. “Hopefully, all of the seventh graders will return and as far as eighth graders, several of them are planning to play JV next year.”