Katie Hickey and her Connetquot girls volleyball teammates heard the whispers after a rare regular-season loss in early April: Are the Thunderbirds finally on their way down?
"It was definitely something we weren’t proud of," said Hickey, of a five-game loss against Whitman. "Sometimes, you can learn from your mistakes, and maybe that’s what we needed to happen."
Hickey, who missed the first few matches of the season with an ankle injury, also switched positions from middle to outside hitter during the season.
The Stony Brook-bound Hickey looked better than ever with 15 kills as Connetquot topped host Bay Shore, 25-17, 25-18, 21-25, 25-16 in a Suffolk League II girls volleyball match on Wednesday.
"We started spreading the ball around more," coach Karen Edwards said. "We went more to the outside, sometimes in the middle, and even had a few sets to the back row."
Senior setter Ryann Grable was the catalyst with 30 assists for Connetquot (13-1). Senior middle hitter Kylie Wixted (10 kills, 10 points and 7 blocks) and senior outside Gabby Carere (10 kills, 7 points) were also key for the Thunderbirds, who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.
However, the Marauders showed their mettle with a huge effort in the third game, scoring the last three points to force a fourth game. (It was only the fifth game overall Connetquot has dropped all season.)
Sophia DeBonis had 27 assists, 9 kills and 3 blocks, and Maeve Voltz added 19 kills and five blocks for Bay Shore (11-5). Samantha Russo added 28 digs, and Morgan Kramer and Elizabeth Bateman each had nine digs for the Marauders.
Connetquot broke open a close fourth game thanks to contributions from libero Lauren Konzen, who had two of her six points in the fourth game, and Grable, who had a run of five straight service points, to give the Thunderbirds a commanding 17-7 lead.
Wixted, who is 6-3 and will attend Springfield (Mass.) College after graduation, had four of her blocks for points down the stretch to help Connetquot, which has won four Suffolk titles and three Long Island and state crowns, close the match.
"We’ve really come together as a team," Wixted said. "When we play together, we have more energy."
Which radiates throughout the team.
"Every single person does their absolute best to get out on the court, and that effort really helps us out a lot," said the 6-2 Hickey, who has a combined academic and athletic scholarship to Stony Brook. "We’re excited to even be playing at this point — we didn’t even know if we’d have a season — and I’m just so proud of the team."