It's about 9 a.m. - two hours too early for most high schoolers on a Saturday - and the Jericho boys volleyball players are milling about a gym at Uniondale High School before their coach reminds them of the steps to this particular dance: get in a line, shake hands, wish your opponents a good game.
After all, it's been awhile.
Though not officially the start of the volleyball season, the Uniondale Invitational tournament features eight of the stronger teams in Nassau and the CHSAA. It's a dress rehearsal of sorts, a chance to work out the kinks in non-league play before taking on what's become an increasingly competitive subsection of Long Island volleyball.
"It really helps us to see the competition," said Hicksville co-captain Danny Nardiello shortly before helping lead his team through a regimented job through Uniondale's halls. "We're learning to build on any mistakes we may make."
Added coach Rory Lawlor: "This is a great thing for a team that's regrouping."
The tournament begins with two sections of pool play before whittling down to the final. St. Anthony's defeated Jericho in the two-game final, 25-19 and 25-15. Uniondale came in third.
Though winning would have been a bonus, Uniondale coach Janna Ferrovecchio said her main interest lays elsewhere.
"It's really about getting ready for the season," she said. "Some of these guys are used to playing one match and done. With this, you play one after another and it's a more college-like atmosphere . . . A couple of my kids, like [junior] Jason Mosco are prospective [college players]."
For teams like Calhoun, which went from a developmental league two years ago to Division I and the playoffs last year, it's a way to gauge the talent and build discipline, said coach Heather Glick.
"We've always been on the cusp," Glick said. "We're really trying to change that.
Consider Saturday step one.