The combination of having a roster laden with underclassmen, and playing in the toughest conference in the county has led to an up-and-down season on the volleyball court at Baldwin.
The Lady Bruins dropped their first four conference matches, rallied back to win four consecutive crossovers, and stand at 5-7 for the season. With just one match to play prior to the release of the Nassau Class AA playoff pairings, Baldwin, which has just three seniors on its roster, hopes to be playing its best at the right time.
Coach April Mosca believes growing pains have had a lot to do with her young team’s inconsistent season. “Our skills are up to par with our opponents, but we need to get a little stronger mentally,” Mosca said. “As a team, we’ve gotten better with each match, which is a big plus, but we have to understand that we can never afford to relax against any opponent at any time.”
Mosca’s concerns stem from a week that saw her team win the first two sets in back-to-back matches only to see both go to a fifth set. In the first one, the Lady Bruins appeared to be well on their way to a win over perennial-power Massapequa, only to see the Chiefs battle back for a five-set triumph.
The following afternoon, Baldwin traveled to Suffolk County for a non-conference matchup with Half Hollow Hills West. Again, the Lady Bruins were pushed to a fifth set after taking the first two, but this time they showed their perseverance and held on to beat the Colts 25-22, 25-16, 20-25, 20-25, and 30-28.
Outside hitter Ava Bandel has emerged as the team’s go-to player. The junior captain, who had 11 kills in a sweep of Oceanside in late September, has an outstanding hitting percentage, is one of the team’s best from behind the service line, and possesses excellent court sense.
One of Baldwin’s strengths is its play at middle. Junior Gabby Biggs, the team leader in blocks, is a force at the net. Sophomore middle Karaline Mahler has made tremendous improvement as the season has progressed. Junior Aidia Rieger has been dominant from the right side. Rieger is tall and athletic, and can be an intimidating presence for opponents.
“The middles have been blocking a lot more now than they were earlier in the season,” Mosca said. “When we have Gabby, Ava, and Aidia at the net, we’re real tough.”
Senior captain Jorden Warthen, the team’s setter, has great hands, sees the court well, and is rarely called for double hits. Senior Alexis Aponte is the prototypical libero.
Aponte reads and digs well, and has a strong serve-receive game.
“We’re serving more aggressively, and our percentage is strong,” Mosca said. “Hopefully, we’re peaking at the right time. Playoffs are a clean slate; a new season. We have believe in ourselves and make sure we’re all on the same page. It has to come from inside.”
Baldwin’s first-round playoff opponent wasn’t available at press time.