Sophie Dandola has become one of the most feared girls volleyball players on Long Island because of her extraordinary power. But the Seaford star knows she’s reaching the end of her competitive career.
Dandola, a returning member of Newsday’s All-Long Island first team, will play softball at Hofstra, where the senior will use her fastball in the circle to dominate hitters.
“When I was younger, I started softball before I started volleyball,” Dandola said. “The second I started playing softball I fell in love with the game. I love volleyball equally, but softball is my sport.”
Even if softball is her sport, Dandola’s dominance on the volleyball court is hard to ignore. She racked up 39 kills and 15 aces in three wins for the Vikings in the past week en route to being named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
She proved integral in 3-1 wins over Island Trees and Mineola and a straight-sets win against Malverne.
One of her keys to success this season has been her serve, which she throws high in the air with slight topspin before jumping high and striking the ball.
After the ball is struck, it immediately begins a sharp drop, which makes it exceptionally difficult for defenses to control.
“She’s been working on that serve for years,” Seaford coach Marie Savage said. “The topspin she gets on the ball is amazing. It’s just been about consistency for her.
“It all depends on how steady your hand is. When she was younger, she had the power, but she’d get worked up and throw the ball super high or hit the ball too strong. She always knew her power, but now she can control it better.”
Consistency has both Dandola and Seaford (8-0) in position to make a playoff run in Nassau BC-I. The Vikings have dropped just three sets this season, and as the calendar turns to October, playing steady volleyball will be crucial.
“I’m just trying to do my best and play my heart out because I know this is the last time I’m really going to play against other teams,” Dandola said.
Dandola said she could still play intramural volleyball in college so she can stay involved with the sport. Of course, that’s significantly less competitive than the high school and club levels.
But Dandola isn’t focused that far ahead. Her goals right now are to make sure Seaford realizes its potential and to enjoy every moment of being on the court.
“I think I’ll always remember how fun volleyball was,” Dandola said. “I feel like it’s just a getaway from my phone and reality. When I’m on the court playing, I feel free and it’s just natural.”