The Hampton Bays girls volleyball team was a perennial playoff team under head coach Andy Fotopoulos, but when he stepped down following the 2016 season, the program languished, winning only a single match prior to him returning as head coach in 2019.
Since Fotopoulos has returned, the Baymen, while not quite at the top of their game just yet, seem to be back on the right track.
Hampton Bays defeated host Pierson/Bridgehampton, 2-0, in the finals to win the sixth annual Pierson Varsity Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, September 18. The Baymen turned around what had been a loss to Pierson in the finals the last time the tournament was held in 2019.
Shelter Island defeated East Hampton in a single playoff match to 25 to place third. Greenport/Southold, Southampton, Ross and the Hampton Bays junior varsity team also competed in the tournament.
Pierson/Bridgehampton head coach Donna Fischer said she could remember when she first started the tournament over six years ago, putting it all together by herself, staying up late the night before to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. Now, she said, the tournament has taken on a life of its own.
“The tournament was great,” she said. “My girls could have had it, it’s a work in progress with them, but a great day for all. It was basically a lot of fun. All the officials said it was good. It was cute to see everybody playing together and getting along. I’m very proud of that.”
It was a culmination of what was a rather successful week for Hampton Bays. After defeating neighboring district Westhampton Beach in a non-league match on September 13 — a match in which they lost one of their top players, Nellie Nicolova, to a concussion, they lost, 3-0, at Bayport-Blue Point on September 15. But two days later, they came back and defeated Shelter Island, 3-0, at home in a non-league match, before running the table at the Pierson tournament on Saturday.
Fotopoulos liked how his team controlled the middle of the court and the nets at Pierson, between both Kati Mounts and Asha Pensa-Johnson. Aliyah Cukaj, he said, has been playing great defensively, and Tania Quiros and Meegan Lennon have provided solid play thus far. And the team’s two setters, Briana Quiros and Jordan Meyers, have also been playing well, he said.
Fotopoulos said his players can see their play starting to turn around, but he also said they know it’s still a long road ahead. The Baymen, who are 3-3 overall, still have yet to win a League VI match this season, suffering a tough 3-2 loss at home to Center Moriches on Monday, a match they were up 2-1 at one point. In order to make the playoffs this season, they need to win at least half of their league matches.
“Nellie being out puts us a step back,” Fotopoulos explained. “She does so many things well for us so that’s a spot where we have a weakness now.
“But the girls are really confident in themselves,” he added. “Even after the loss to Bayport, they said, ‘we’re a much better team at home, we’ll beat them at home.’ They’re definitely on the upswing. And the JV is playing great too. They won their pool at Pierson against some varsity teams.”