Gabby Carere #21 of Connetquot reacts after spiking for a...

Gabby Carere #21 of Connetquot reacts after spiking for a successful kill in a Suffolk County League II girls volleyball match against host Northport High School on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Connetquot won 3-0. Credit: James Escher

So how does one describe Connetquot girls volleyball player Gabby Carere?

Well, who better to give a scouting report on the senior outside hitter than her best friend -- and the person who has been her setter since sixth grade -- Ryann Grable.

"She gets up and she gets that ball down," Grable said. "The approach is aggressive, the swing is fast, and yeah, she gets up there."

Indeed. The 5-11 Carere skied for a match-high 15 kills to lead visiting Connetquot to a 25-11, 25-17, 25-17 sweep against Northport in a Suffolk League II match on Wednesday.

"When we found out we were able to play [in the spring], we had a big talk with the team," Carere said. "We told them, ‘Don’t take any moment for granted, we seniors are only out here one last time.’ "

The Thunderbirds -- a three-time state champ (2015, 2017, 2019) -- have won three Long Island crowns and four Suffolk championships.

Although Connetquot (2-0) graduated five key members from the 2019 state championship squad, it still has a core of solid seniors, including Carere, Grable (20 assists), and Kylie Wixted, who seemed unstoppable at times on Wednesday. The 6-3 middle hitter had 12 kills, 10 points and five blocks.

Teammates Karly Colletti and Lexi Raimondi both had eight points for the Thunderbirds, who had all 15 players participate in the match.

"Our middle [hitters] have been huge for us," coach Karen Edwards said. "We get the tempo going, we take care of the ball, and everything else seems to fall in place."

Aileen McPartland had 13 digs, Tara Walsh added nine digs and four kills, and Lauren Salmon had nine assists for Northport (1-1).

A small crowd watched the match, as the athletes seemed to enjoy just being able to play a sport again.

"We’re really, really grateful to be out here right now, because we didn’t think we were going to have a season at all," said Wixted, who will attend Springfield (Mass.) College, where she’ll play volleyball. "Since it’s our senior season, we’re just so thankful to be playing."

While continuing the tradition of the revered Thunderbirds program.

"When we were underclassmen, the seniors showed us the proper mentality to have and taught us everything we need to know," Carere said. "We are a family."

A family that changes, but still grows, evolves and, seemingly, keeps winning.

"It’s different with a new lineup," Wixted said, "but we’re definitely creating chemistry together and we’re keeping the Connetquot brand where it belongs."