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Elle Johnson, East Hampton turned girls volleyball into an art form

And the team uses a stop light as a metaphor for its season.

Molly Mamay and East Hampton teammates Mikela Junemann

Molly Mamay and East Hampton teammates Mikela Junemann and Zoe Rae Leach painted a mural outlining the team's goals. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

Plenty of high school students are assigned summer reading, but a few members of the East Hampton girls volleyball team decided to read something other than a conventional work of fiction.

Seeking a change from consecutive seasons with early playoff exits, seniors on the team read a leadership book during the summer in search of ideas on how to change the culture.

One section of the book called for the creation of a poster outlining the team’s goals, but East Hampton took it one step further. Mikela Junemann, Molly Mamay and Zoe Rae Leach painted a mural.

It features a few words to follow — like “confidence” and “perseverance” — but it also prominently features a stop light.

“We’re making sure we’re in the green light all the time,” senior setter Elle Johnson said. “It’s not that we expected to come out this hot, but it proves how hard we worked.”

The Bonackers haven’t had a red light stop them yet. They’re 4-0 in Suffolk VI with marquee wins over Sayville and Westhampton, perennial powers in that league.

Kings Park has won seven consecutive Long Island Class A titles, but the Kingsmen lost 3-1 to Eastport-South Manor on Friday, hinting at a potential changing of the guard in the future.

East Hampton wants to be in that conversation, even if its players are trying not to think that far ahead.

“Our main focus is just one point at a time and getting through each of these games,” middle hitter Ella Gurney said. “Our main goal is to finish better than we did last year.”

With 11 returning players and eight seniors, coach Kathy McGeehan said the season’s start has “just been one great step after another.” The Bonackers even won their first tournament with this core of seniors, defeating Pierson in the final of the ESM Tournament on Sept. 15.

“Part of their mission statement they put together this year was to do things they had never done before,” McGeehan said.

Their preparation exemplified their commitment to raising the bar. They played club volleyball in the offseason and attending a camp at Penn State, staying in dorms together and learning together as a team. They even had morning workout sessions when school ended in June.

“We’re extremely motivated,” Gurney said.

Gurney and Nicole Realmuto form a strong tandem in the middle, while Junemann and Madyson Neff provide firepower on the outside. Johnson orchestrates the offense at setter, and Mamay anchors the defense at libero.

“A lot of the pieces have come together for us,” McGeehan said.

That combination of pieces could have what it takes to add a 14th championship banner to the East Hampton gymnasium. Once a county power, East Hampton has fallen just short of a few titles in the last decade.

With an increased emphasis on communication and the crystal-clear expectations, the Bonackers are “excited about the possibilities,” according to McGeehan.

There’s still plenty of season left, but they’re hoping to put the finishing touches on what could be a work of art.

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