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In volleyball, there is no kill without the set

Lauren Wilke of Bayport-Blue Point, left, and Jamie

Lauren Wilke of Bayport-Blue Point, left, and Jamie Yonker of Plainview JFK on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. Credit: James Escher

Powerful hits are thrilling and swift defensive plays are scintillating, but the pass in the heart of the bump-set-spike combination is arguably the most crucial in girls volleyball.

Without a competent setter, volleyball teams will struggle to score points. Setters provide cohesion and order while acting as the quarterback of the offense. Hitters can’t rack up kills without having a setter place the ball in the exact right place above the net.

“The setter is one of the most important positions because they get a touch on almost every ball, and if there is no set, the hitters can’t really put the ball away,” said Plainview JFK’s Jamie Yonker, who will move to outside hitter this year after spending time as a setter in years past.

Long Island is littered with quality setters. Massapequa’s Jamie Smith was Newsday’s Nassau Player of the Year last fall, and Connetquot’s Nicole Migliozzi was vital in lifting the Thunderbirds to a state Class AA championship.

Whitman’s Olivia Poplawski and Bayport-Blue Point’s Lauren Wilke are also top setters who believe the position is underappreciated.

“Most people just look for the big hitter who gets the kill, but it’s a lot of work running around and getting the perfect set for your hitters,” said Poplawski.

Wilke did acknowledge that her teammates appreciate what she does, even if those watching in the stands don’t always get excited for a crisp set.

“A lot of the other positions help cheer you on, so it just makes me want to perform better,” she said.

Setting is as difficult a skill as any other on the court, especially when considering just how much instinct goes into doing the position justice.

Knowledge of your own offense is obviously key, but so is an understanding of the opposing defense’s tendencies. Knowing where defenders are going to be allows smart setters to feed the ideal hitter, who can then find a hole on the court.

Setters also have to chase down an occasional stray pass from whoever makes first contact with the ball. A talented libero can make that first pass count, but not every pass will be on point. This makes speed and quick reflexes a necessity.

Only a handful of setters on Long Island possess all these qualities, though some are knocking on that door.

Kings Park’s Haley Holmes, Wantagh’s Shannon Hagan, Lindenhurst’s Alexa Morgan, Centereach’s Haley Timarkey and others have shown flashes of consistency and could make the jump to stardom this season.

But not all setters are in it for the glory. Setter is a naturally unselfish position, played by athletes looking to put their teammates in positions to succeed.

“The other hitters feel my presence,” said Wilke. “They know I’ll always put it in the right spot at the right time.”

Underappreciated? Maybe. Unimportant? Absolutely not.


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