SOMERS, N.Y.— A few years ago, being competitive with powerhouse teams like John Jay-Cross River and Walter Panas would have been unheard of for Somers’ volleyball team.
To be just points away from defeating one of them? Not a chance.
The culture, however, within the Somers volleyball program is changing. Somers had a 2-0 lead on John Jay last week and was just five points away from a win, but ultimately suffered a heartbreaking five-set league defeat.
“I feel like we’re really showing people that we’re here to contend right now,” second-year Somers coach Kim Kelly said. “I know that the girls are feeling a little bit down because of some [losses] on the record now, whereas we started out of the gate with a lot of wins. I’m trying to keep their confidence up to let them know I still believe in them. They’ve got to believe with every thread in their body that they’re just as good if not better than a John Jay.”
The Indians, who are annually in contention for a Section 1 title, won the third set 25-16. They were deadlocked with Somers 20-20 in the fourth set. A series of aces, however, led the Indians to a 25-20 win.
Somers didn’t let the momentum swing deter them, jumping out to a 12-7 lead in the final set. Madison Andriano launched an ace and Chloe Pittman spiked down a kill with the assist coming from Liz Spencer (22 assists). Then Alexa Casciano got in on the act with an ace and then a kill. The Indians weren’t going away though, as they rallied to cut the Tuskers lead to 12-11.
“They’re tough as nails,” Kelly said of her team. “They’ve got the grit. We just have to rein a few things in and get our communication a little better on the floor. It was a great match and I can’t be upset with them. I just wished we seized the opportunity a little sooner to close the deal.”
It was back-and-forth with the times deadlocked at 13-13 then 16-16. John Jay then began to pull away, winning the final set 25-17 to end the two-and-a-half hour match.
“We played hard and they hustled,” Kelly said. “But in the end, [John Jay] was better than us.”
Somers got out strong start behind Vicky Levy (three kills, ace) and won the first set, 25-18. In the second set, a Pooja Rao kill gave Somers a 24-23 lead and an unforced error gave Somers a 25-23 comeback victory along with a 2-0 lead.
“Going into the match I knew that John Jay was 4-1, but I also knew that we’ve been playing some really good ball,” Kelly said. “But we’ve also had a lot of ups and downs as of late. I knew that our energy level was going to play into how we came out (the first set). I felt that we really had control of the game, jumping out of the gates at 2-0. We had a lot of confidence but things broke down. We started making some errors, [John Jay] picked up its level of play. We had communication issues on the court which was causing a lot of balls to drop. It was a hard-fought match and I’m proud of them. They gave their all and definitely did not give up. We just have to dial it in and take better control of the errors situation because when you’re playing a team you’re closely matched with, there’s no room for that.”
Pittman paced the team with seven kills in what was a well-rounded effort.
“Everybody at different points contributed,” Kelly said. “I thought Vicky Levy played incredible defense. Chloe connected several times and got some great hits. Alyssa Klee had some big hits, Pooja got a couple of good blocks.”
On Sept. 25, Somers fell to Walter Panas 3-1 (26-24, 5-25, 13-25, 6-25), but managed to take a set off the defending Class A state champions. It was the first set the Panthers lost all season.
Somers also lost to Fox Lane on Sept. 18: 24-26, 25-22, 16-25, 20-25.
The Tuskers (3-5) hosted Lakeland in a league game Sept. 27 and then welcome Harrison today at 4:30 p.m.