It’s hard for a team in any sport to win a championship and it may be even harder for them to duplicate that success the following year, especially with a coaching change. But when that new bench boss has an impeccable resume, things can continue to run smoothly.
The Calhoun girls’ volleyball team captured its first Nassau, Long Island and state titles in program history last fall and now has Nassau Athletics Hall of Famer Cheryl Scalice at the helm as the Colts try for a second straight championship. They picked up right where they left off so far, winning eight of their first nine sets during their 3-0 start and reaching the semifinals in two separate tournaments.
Despite the adjustment period, Scalice is understandably pleased with how things have gone so far.
“They’re doing very well,” Scalice said. “Obviously, everything is a big change for them, and me, and I think all have been doing super well together. This team was led by three very strong seniors that graduated and it’s a very different lineup and it’s been challenging, but they’re hard workers and they’re doing great.”
Calhoun swept Port Washington in the opener on Sept. 12 and did the same against visiting Hewlett six days later before taking three of the four sets against Elmont on Sept. 20. Olivia Katz had 10 kills, 13 assists, four blocks, and four aces, while fellow senior Gianna Lucchi added 15 kills, 20 assists, and five digs.
Elmont had won a preseason tournament at Herricks in which Calhoun competed in as well, but the teams did not meet.
“Elmont was a big challenge,” Scalice said. “We really jacked ourselves up for that game and we prepared mentally and I was especially impressed with how well the girls followed the game plan.”
An All-State player last year, Lucchi is considered by many to be one of the top setters on Long Island and leads the team with 50 assists through the first three games. She is also first with 28 kills while sharing the team lead with nine aces while adjusting to Scalice’s new scheme.
“She was an absolute key [to the team’s success],” Scalice said of her co-captain. “The change that I did with her, out of need, is going from her setting from a 5-1 (formation) and being the only setter, to a 6-2. I did that because she is such a powerful hitter.”
Katz is also playing a bigger role and is second on the team in kills (27), blocks (5) and assists (30). Junior Olivia Ruisi leads the team with 13 blocks and is the other co-leader with nine aces, and co-captain Grace Miller tops the Colts with 27 digs.
Senior Johanna Esposito is one of the team’s “biggest surprises” after receiving more playing time. Senior Cameron Tighe is a steady presence in the middle with three blocks thus far, and new libero Amelia Secor was “strong” against Elmont and is expected to improve even more as the season progresses, Scalice said.
The Colts visit a Plainview team that had two straight-set victories last week on Friday.