With smiles abounding and a relaxed aura permeating the Marco Island Middle School gym, the Marco Island Academy volleyball team enjoyed a doubleheader sweep over Donahue Catholic, winning both matches 3-0, on Wednesday, September 16.
The Rays, who have tangled with some of the county’s powerhouses already this season, seemed to enjoy playing a couple of matches where they were the dominant team. The Rays also enjoyed a doubleheader sweep at Everglades City on Tuesday, September 15, dropping only one game in winning two matches, 3-1, 3-0. On Thursday evening, September 17, the Rays traveled to play one of the top teams in the area, Seacrest Country Day School, losing 3-1, but taking a hard-earned game from the only team in Collier Country to ever win a state volleyball championship. Seacrest won the state championship in 2013 and look strong again this year.
“We’re starting to work together as a team, that’s for sure,” Rays Head Coach Alyssa Stolinas said after the Rays’ win over Donahue Catholic.
The Rays have four new players on this year’s team and three of them are starters. Consequently, the team is still getting used to playing with each other. In volleyball, knowing whether your teammate is likely to go for a certain ball can make the difference between a successful play or a play where the ball lands on the floor and teammates are left looking at each other wondering why the other didn’t go for the ball.
“They’ve never really played together,” Stolinas said of her team. “They’re just trying to work with each other and see who gets what, and who doesn’t. Where to pick up the slack.”
Stolinas appreciates the opportunity for her team to play a couple of matches where her players can shine while getting used to playing together. “These were good matches because we were able to run stuff that we normally can’t run against other teams,” she said. “Different sets and stuff we get to run because we have a lead and we can kind of play around with some things. I think we have a lot more fun with these and our team really bonds over it, versus a five-game match where we’re tense the whole time and we’re yelling at each other. I think these are good bonding moments for sure.”
Success against weaker programs may be good for the psyche and for developing teamwork, but playing teams equal or better than they are will make the Rays a stronger team. Thursday’s match with Seacrest was an example of the Rays playing a team they weren’t expected to beat.
“I think it’s a great experience,” Stolinas said of the challenge Seacrest poses. “We’re only going to benefit from it. Seacrest has a great program. We expect to learn a couple of things from them for sure.”
The two doubleheader wins evened the Rays’ record at 4-4. Seacrest is 6-3. Donahue Catholic is 1-4 and Everglades City is 0-3.
MIA completes in 2A District 12 with First Baptist Academy, Seacrest, Everglades City and The Village School of Naples.
“They just switched our districts on us,” Stolinas said. “It’s hard when you’re a small school. We’re only going to get better.”