The atmosphere at St. John Neumann High School was pulsating last Friday night on September 4th, when Marco Island Academy opened their 2020 in front of a rowdy crowd at Neumann’s circa-1970s-vintage gym.
Because Neumann is a private school, spectators were permitted at the event. An energetic public address announcer had the crowd pumped up, and the play on the court certainly kept the enthusiasm level high throughout the match.
Neumann came out strong—and MIA appeared tentative early—before the island girls settled down and traded bumps, sets and spikes with the home team for five thrilling games of volleyball. In the end, Neumann prevailed, 3-2, with a 15-10 win in the deciding fifth game.
“It was our little pre-game jitters,” Head Coach Alyssa Stolinas said. “I thought it was gonna be three close games and then be done, but we’re better than that. We have a lot of new freshmen this year. It’s a matter of getting used to playing as a team. I thought we overcame that very quickly.”
Neumann stormed to a 25-17 win in the opening game, but the Rays settled down and battled back to win the second game 25-19. The second game was tied 10-10 before the Rays took charge.
Neumann took the third game to take a 2-1 advantage in the best of five format. With their backs to the wall, the Rays responded. MIA led 19-14 in the fourth game before Newman made their move, eventually tying the game 22-22.
Things looked grim for the Rays as the Celtics scored the next two points and were one point from winning the match at 24-22. The Rays then ran off four straight points to win the fourth game, 26-24, and set up the deciding fifth game.
The fifth game was a shorter 15-point affair. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-3 lead. A spirited Rays rally tightened things up at 13-10, but Newman was able to withstand the rally and prevailed 15-10.
Stolinas, like her players, was disappointed with the loss, but the coach was philosophical about the performance of her team. “We have three captains,” she said. “Megan Sweeney, Camryn Rose—she’s our speaking captain and outside hitter, and our liber, Sophia Shea. Even Skye LaButte, she’s not a captain this year, but she’s a leader on the court as well.
“It was a great start. Definitely a tough loss. It was a great competition—we’re two equally-matched teams. We both fought hard. We still have a few things that we have to work out. There’s some things we need to fix.”