Two members of the Wantagh girls volleyball team pointed fingers after Thursday’s match, but not in an accusatory way.
Instead, it was to answer a simple question: Who hits the hardest?
Tori Spencer and Kayla Rende both immediately pointed to Grace Riddle, who had 18 kills in Wantagh’s 25-19, 25-15, 20-25, 25-12 win over host Mineola in Nassau A-I.
“We all have those moments when everyone can hit hard, and it’s just…fun,” Riddle said, recognizing the contributions of Tori Spencer (10 kills), Emily Van O’Linda (seven), Julia Pugliese (six) and Kaitlyn Steele (six).
Riddle, a senior, missed a chunk of last season with leg troubles and returned fully healthy this season. The results have carried Wantagh to a 2-0 start, a nice first step for a team coach Dan O’Shea lauded for its balance.
Still, there’s no denying that the offense thrives off Riddle’s eye-popping power.
“We all rely on each other, but I think when Riddle’s going up, we all know that she’s going to put it down for us,” said Spencer, who put the finishing touches on the first and second sets with loud kills of her own.
The diverse offense is made possible by the sturdy defense of Jillian Laino and the calm passing of Kayla Rende, who totaled 43 assists.
Rende kept Wantagh from getting stuck in too many scoring droughts, though the Warriors struggled at the end of the third set.
Tied at 16, middle hitter Vickie Venus unloaded on a ball, giving Mineola a 17-16 lead. She then toed the service line and recorded an ace. Mineola (0-1) rolled from there, but the Mustangs couldn’t carry that momentum into the fourth set, which Wantagh dominated after jumping out to a 9-1 lead.
Four different hitters recorded kills during that time, a testament to just how balanced the Warriors are.
“It doesn’t matter where I am,” Rende said. “I know that I always have someone that’s going to put the ball down.”
Having lost to Mineola twice a season ago, Wantagh is out to prove that it’s ready for a better season. A team with this much power can make some jaws drop…even those of its players on the court.
“My jaw literally drops,” Rende said. “I was so excited going into this season because last year, [Riddle and Spencer] definitely had playing time, but I feel like they didn’t show their potential the most. They can do so much. They’re both so incredible."