Whether it’s a three-set sweep or five-set marathon, Calhoun’s girls’ volleyball team has found a way to get into the win column in 2012 and has its sights set on the Conference AA-II title.
First-year coach Melissa Schickler, who worked with Allan Ma and Denis Ringel in the Bellmore-JFK girls’ and boys’ programs, respectively, saw the Lady Colts pull out their third five-set victory of the year Oct. 17 when they held off Mepham, 25-10, 24-26, 25-18, 25-27, 25-17.
“The girls have been able to rise up under pressure,” Schickler said. “Even heading into that fifth set, they’re still confident. We’ve had some matches go back and forth, but each time we found a way.”
Calhoun, which sported a 14-0 record with two matches remaining, relies on a balanced attack led by senior outside hitter Alexa Weinblatt. She had nine kills and five service aces in the win over Mepham and leads the team in both categories. “Alexa is our best hitter and she adjusts well to passes,” Schickler said. “She can hit with power and accuracy. Teams have tried to double-block her, but they haven’t kept her from making an impact in a match.”
The offense runs through junior setter Valerie Monsen, who had 20 assists in the Mepham match. In the previous match, a five-set triumph over Oceanside two days earlier, she served seven straight points to open the decisive set. “The girls are used to a 5-1 system and proved to me right away they can do it,” Schickler said. “Valerie’s a tremendous setter. She anticipates well and gets herself in the right place, and she’s got a great set of hands.”
Another key to the team’s success is junior libero Lauren Anne Strezenec, a four-year varsity performer who keeps points alive with her defensive talents and also possesses a strong serve. “She hustles all over the court and keeps everything in play,” Schickler said.
Senior Gianna Saladino, who had five kills against Mepham, is a strong hitter opposite Weinblatt, and the pair is backed by seniors Lindsay Melito and Sarah Mitchell. Sophomore Claire Murphy and junior Jackie Ras, both in their first varsity campaigns, start in the middle. Murphy has come along quickly, Schickler said, to boost the offense, and Ras is a defensive presence at the net. Senior Melanie Krug adds to the attack from the right side.
“Everyone contributes,” Schickler said. “If something is working, we roll with it.”