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Volleyball

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The Ward Melville girls volleyball team celebrates a point.

By Desirée Keegan

The Patriots are starting to roll, and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.

The Ward Melville girls volleyball team pulled away from Longwood 25-11, 25-20, 25-14 for its fifth sweep and sixth straight win of the season Sept. 19 to remain undefeated.

Allie Sturgess continues the volley. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Head coach Charlie Fernandes said he hasn’t been afraid his team was going to lose, but thought in earlier games this season the Patriots eased up on its opponents. As of late, he said he’s enjoying seeing his Patriots (6-0 overall, 4-0 League I) play with fire to the end of matches.

“We want to play everybody as hard as we can and I thought in an earlier match this year we were performing well, but we let up a little,” he said. “Today we played all out the whole time and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ward Melville jumped out to an early 8-4 lead and scored four straight points before a Longwood hit slammed into the middle of the Patriots defense. The Lions hit out of bounds on the next serve and then an out-of-bounds hit handed Ward Melville two of its next three points before Longwood called timeout. The team still couldn’t regroup from there, and the Patriots cruised to the end of the set.

“Game one was very efficient and we started filtering the other kids in,’” Fernandes said. “I thought everyone did a great job.”

Ward Melville junior middle blocker Morgan Persky, who had four blocks, said her team wanted to bring the same high level of play and energy onto the court against Longwood that it did Sept. 15 at Smithtown West. After winning the first set against Longwood by 14 points, she said she thought her team again took its foot off the gas.

Molly Fernandes serves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We came into the second set a little bit more relaxed, and we made some unforced errors,” she said.

The teams stayed neck and neck throughout most of the set. Ward Melville held advantages early and jumped ahead by five points at 11-6, but Longwood closed the gap over the next few minutes to tie the set at 12-12 and again at 16-16. Fernandes called timeout to get his players on the same page, and despite jumping ahead again, Longwood tied the game at 20-20 before the Patriots closed the set scoring the final five points. Sophomore libero Molly Cronin finished with 10 digs, and senior libero Molly Fernandes and sophomore outside hitter Jamie Agostino each had eight digs.

“After the timeout at 16-16 in the second set we realized that we needed to step it up,” Persky said. “I felt that we played much better after that and took control of the court from that point forward. This year, we have been very strong offensively from both the net and the service line.”

The team had holes to fill in the lineup after most of the starters were lost to graduation before this year, but senior setter Courtney Heaney said her team has adjusted well.

“A lot of us have been playing together for a long time,” she said. “We all play club together, and I think we have really good energy on the court, and togetherness, which helps to fill in those gaps left from last year.”

Courtney Heaney sets the ball up for an Anna Brun kill. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Fernandes said the return of two now senior outside hitters in Ashley Fuchs and Ryen Cinski has also put the team in the position it’s in.

“No one knows about them because they both sat out last year with ACL injuries,” he said. “On the court and off the court we have a tight-knit group and that always matters. I think something good is happening here.”

Heaney also gave a glowing review of her two teammates returning from injuries.

“They’re better than ever,” she said of the two outside hitters. “They’ve been doing really well — [they provide] big energy out there. Our biggest players are our outsides. We’re doing really great things this year and I’m really excited about it. We’re on a really great path.”

Persky said the team is working on maintaining its aggressiveness no matter who is on the other side of the court or what the scoreboard says, and Fernandes said he expects that killer instinct to come in time.

“We’re going to work on our defense,” he said, laughing. “It’s mid-September, so the coaches and I joke that there’s certain things we haven’t even worked on with the team yet in practice, and we’re already this good. For the first time in a long time we have a bench that I go to without blinking. We’re a good, strong volleyball team. Heck, this is a tremendous volleyball team, and I think we’re going to be in it at the end.”

Smithtown east's Matthew Wertheim goes up for the kill shot. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Daniel Murphy serves the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Led by the power hitting of Matthew Wertheim and Daniel Murphy, Smithtown East got the best of the Northport’s boys volleyball team, taking the away victory in four sets 25-17, 25-21, 22-25 and 25-21 in Division I action Sept. 19.

“We kind of let up a little bit — we didn’t play as well as we did in the first two sets, but we found a way to get back,” Murphy said. “Northport was a challenge, they came out hard. At first we had them, but then we slumped a little bit.”

Both teams came to the court with identical 3-1 records. The Tigers, coming off a five-set comeback win over Ward Melville the night before. Northport struggled to contain Murphy (14 kills) up front as the outside hitter nailed back-to-back kills to put the Bulls out front 15-11 in the first set. Wertheim (18 kills) made his presence known, and added a pair of his own kills to put the Bulls one point away from winning the match. The Tigers were able to score three unanswered points before the Bulls shut the door.

Smithtown East’s Kyle Shaffer sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East  had momentum on its side coming into the game, having won three in a row. The Bulls only loss of the season was the season opener against Walt Whitman Sept. 5. Looking to build on their momentum, the Bulls jumped ahead 9-5, only to have the Tigers claw their way back to tie the set 10-10. Smithtown East libero Bryan Kaplan slammed home four straight aces to get ahead once more. Both teams traded points, and Smithtown East edged ahead 23-20 before putting away set two.

Northport came out fast in the third set, and mental errors cost Smithtown East the lead, falling behind 14-9. Murphy, equally dangerous from the service line, scored three aces to close within one point.

“I don’t think they were playing to the best of their ability in the first two sets, but then we fell flat, we were overconfident in that third set [and it got away from us],” Smithtown East setter Kyle Shaffer said. “They were better than I’d thought they’d be — their middles are very good and they have great blocking.”

Northport setter Ben Sandt turned the tide with a pair of monster kill shots and the Tigers finished the job to take the third.

Northport’s Ben Sandt spikes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“We stepped it up and they were a little flat,” Sandt said. “We passed better, we had a lot more energy and our setter Ryan Parker pushed the ball up front so we could get some kills. We kept our serves in and we rallied off that.”

The Tigers looked to duplicate what they did the night before — winning three in a row — and found themselves in a 12-12 stalemate in the fourth set. Northport mistakes put the Bulls out front 19-17, and then 23-20 before Northport called timeout.

“Yesterday they  went down two but came back, and we were worried that they were going to do the same thing to us,” Smithtown East head coach Ray Preston said. “But we were able to battle through.”

The Tigers, desperate to force a final set, scored next, but it was too little too late.

Northport head coach Amanda DiPietro said she saw weakness in her lineup that will be addressed going forward.

“I knew they were going to be tough — we saw them in some tournaments previously and they’re a tough team, they have a lot of talent,” she said. “Our service was pretty strong today, but we need to get better at blocking.”

By Bill Landon

Smithtown West had a score to settle, as the girls volleyball team opened the season on the road at Newfield, the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year. For the Bulls, redemption was sweet as the girls swept the Wolverines in three straight sets Sept. 5, 25-10, 25-22, 25-23.

“We know they’re a tough team, they’re scrappy defensively and they’re not going to give up,” said Smithtown West head coach Deron Brown. “We came out really strong in the first set — we put a big number on the board to start.”

“I was happy with how we picked ourselves up in the second game. We got aggressive and had good communication out on the court.”

— Christy Innes

Anchoring the outside hitting game for Smithtown West were senior Peri Allen from the right side and freshman Sally Tietjen from the left.

“Last year — they crushed us in three,” said Allen, who notched 16 digs and eight kills. “So to win today in three proved that we [are capable] of beating them, so it was a big win for us.”

For Tietjen, the scoring was almost reversed, recording 15 kills and eight digs for the formidable scoring duo up front.

The Bulls barreled through the Newfield  in the first set, and despite being ahead 13-6 in the second set, Newfield slowly chipped away at the deficit. As the momentum shifted the Wolverines’ way, with the help of some Smithtown West miscues, Newfield rallied to close the gap to 22-19, forcing Smithtown West to call timeout. Out of the break, the Wolverines scored two unanswered points to trail by one before the Bulls closed the door, 25-22.

Newfield head coach Christy Innes said she anticipated a tough match and said her team had to shake off the first set and focus on playing mistake free the rest of the way.

“[Smithtown West] did very well today — they played a very aggressive game, but we expected that,” the coach said. “I was happy with how we picked ourselves up in the second game. We got aggressive and had good communication out on the court.”

“In that third set I just wanted to make sure we kept pushing through. We fell behind a little bit and this happened to us last year, so we had to really fight through that game, and we pushed hard.

Sally Tietjen

The Wolverines once again got off to a slow start to open the third set, falling behind 5-0 before they could answer. Madison Wenzel set to her outside hitters — senior Naomi Ruffalo-Roman and junior Olivia Bond — as the three battled at the net to claw their way back, tying the set 14-14. It was a see-saw battle the rest of the way with Newfield taking its first lead of the day, edging ahead 15-14, but the Bulls rallied back too, to make it a new game at 18-18.

“In that third set I just wanted to make sure we kept pushing through,” Tietjen said. “We fell behind a little bit and this happened to us last year, so we had to really fight through that game, and we pushed hard. We were so determined to beat them after last year, so we didn’t let up.”

The Wolverines scored, but the Bulls answered. An out-of-bounds serve gave the lead back to Newfield for 20-19 advantage, and both teams traded points before Smithtown West scored the final two to win.

Newfield is back on the court Sept. 7 when the team travels to Riverhead for a 4 p.m. match.

“They pulled together,” Innes said. “They got aggressive, had good communication and they played well in the last two games. We’ll be back at practice tomorrow and work on the individual skills stuff for each girl and we’ll focus on cleaning up the technique.”

Smithtown West will host crosstown foe Smithtown East Sept. 7 at 5:45 p.m.

“Our lineup is not really set yet — we’re still trying different kids in different spots — but everybody responded well,” Brown said. “They went out on the court with energy and they stayed positive, even when the match got tight.”

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By Bill Landon

Lauren Kloos continues to lead the way for Kings Park.

On Nov. 12, the senior outside hitter’s 12 kills put the girls’ volleyball team back in the state semifinal game. The Kingsmen bested Floral Park in straight sets, 25-10, 25-19 and 25-22 for Kings Park’s sixth straight Long Island championship crown.

Kloos said Kings Park (19-0) was ready for Floral Park, practicing defending against the unconventional ways its opponent would end up tipping and dumping the ball.

Junior outside hitter Sam Schultz, who finished with 12 digs and seven kills, and junior middle hitter Kara Haase, who added nine digs and eight kills, were also important contributors.

It’s been familiar stages for the Kings Park, and for the past three years, the Kingsmen have also seen a familiar foe at the county level.

Prior to the Long Island win, the dynasty did it again, as No. 1 Kings Park swept No. 2 Westhampton for the third straight year, 25-10, 25-15 and 25-13 for the Kingsmen’s sixth Suffolk Class A title.

Westhampton was plagued by unforced errors throughout the matchup, committing five of them in the first set alone to fall behind 16-7. Kloos made here presence known early, and spiked a kill shot that put her team out front 18-7, as Westhampton called timeout to try and throw Kings Park off balance.

It didn’t work, and as the team spread the ball around, the powerhouse surged ahead 23-9 looking to end the set early. And it did.

“A lot of hard work goes into it — the amount of practice we have to do to be able to execute [on the court],” Kloos said following the county win. “To be able to win another [championship] for the program is just amazing.”

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove. As time evolves we have a target on our back.”

— Ed Manly

The senior earned her fourth Suffolk and Long Island titles.

Dig after dig the Kingsmen got the ball to the junior Haley Holmes, and the setter spread the wealth. She aided the team in breaking out to a 13-5 advantage in the second set.

“It takes a lot of practice,” said Holmes, who finished with 28 assists and 10 digs against Floral Park. “We come to practice every day and we were ready for this. Our defense was perfect and that made it easy for me; the hitters just killed it.”

Kings Park continued to capitalize on Westhampton’s unforced errors, and surged ahead 23-15. On a bad serve, Westhampton handed Kings Park the break point, and the Kingsmen did what they’ve done all season, and put the set away, 25-15.

“Our energy, our intensive focus — every point we were mentally engaged, we knew where we needed to be, we knew our assignments,” Kings Park head coach Ed Manly said. “It was very hard. Our girls just work tirelessly all year long to play in this game. This is why you play volleyball, and we have the best kids around.”

Junior middle hitter Erika Benson, who had five kills and two blocks in the Long Island championship game, said her group continues to pull through and win as a team.

“Every game is a challenge, ” she said. “Our energy on and off the court never stopped. We never had a dull moment.”

Westhampton managed one last kill shot before Kings Park took the county title.

Having depth and help from all over makes Kings Park a contender for the state title. The team has to get through Glens Falls first, in the state semifinals Nov. 19. The Kingsmen have yet to take home a state title in the last five years.

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove,” Manly said. “As time evolves we have a target on our back. There are times when our kids feel like they’re not given the same credit as other teams around, for one reason or another, so they’re really inspired to play solid volleyball all of the time.”

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By Bill Landon

Smithtown West did what to many was inconceivable.

The boys’ volleyball team claimed the program’s first Class A Long Island title Nov. 12 with a four-set win over Plainview JFK (16-2) 25-18, 25-23, 24-26 and 26-24.

Junior outside hitter Chris Shanley had 20 kills, junior outside hitter Kevin Kelleher added 16 kills and senior setter Tom Bernard had 42 assists to lead the Bulls to the championship at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. Senior libero Jake Torres had 17 digs and senior middle blocker Tom Keller had five kills and four blocks.

To claim the team’s first Class A championship just three days prior, the No. 2 Bulls handed No. 1 Sachem North its first Long Island loss in 52 matches. In fact, Smithtown West swept its opponent, a two-time defending Suffolk champion, 28-16, 25-19 and 25-17 at Suffolk.

Again, Shanley led the way for the Bulls (14-2) with 15 kills.

He helped the Bulls not only tie the game twice, but give the team a one-point edge two times in the first set. He also put the team in the right state of mind to get the job done.

“We were getting the sets where they needed to be, we were getting kills and we distributed the ball well,” Shanley said, adding that he knew his team would have to play a mistake-free game in order to get the job done. “But I knew that they could come back with any mistake we made.”

Both teams scratched and clawed at the net as Sachem North (15-1) retook the lead, 23-22, and took the game to break point. But after Smithtown West called for a break in the action, the Bulls rallied back.

“We stayed composed and we played for every point until the game is over,” Kelleher said. “We’re a hard team — we push.”

Needing to win the set by two points, the Flaming Arrows brought the game to the brink, only to have Kelleher’s kill shot retie the game 26-26. The Bulls fought off back-to-back set points, and won it on a block by Keller, who had nine kills.

“Our defense was the strongest part of our game — we pride ourselves on being the best defensive team on the Island.”

—David DeRosa

“Winning that first game gave us the confidence that we can do it,” Smithtown West head coach Michael Legge said. “We had a little bit of doubt, but that win gave us the confidence to go get them.”

The momentum carried over to the second set. The Bulls jumped out to 6-2 lead, and stood on the gas to make it a 14-8 advantage. Both teams exchanged points, but the Bulls maintained the margin, staying out front, 18-12. The team showed its defensive strength, as Torres dug and dove all over the floor — making nine digs on the night — and got the ball out to Kelleher and junior right side hitter David DeRosa.

“Our defense was the strongest part of our game — we pride ourselves on being the best defensive team on the Island,” DeRosa said. “[Assistant] coach Andrew Sanchez preaches defense, and that’s how you win games — you get the ball up, you throw it back at them and let them make the mistake.”

Sachem North did just that, making an unforced error to fall behind 22-14, and after giving the Bulls a point on a service error, a Bulls kill brought the match to break point, prompting another timeout in the match. After a sustained volley, the game was decided at the net off a blocked shot, and Smithtown West took a two-set lead.

Even with its strong teamwork, Smithtown West got off to a slow start in the third, before tying the set 5-5. The Flaming Arrows answered with three straight points before Shanley, from service, rattled off three of his own to knot the score at 8-8. Sachem North committed two more unforced errors, and continued to struggle to find a rhythm at the Bulls bounced out to a 17-11 lead.

The thunder from Smithtown West’s side of the bleachers echoed off the gymnasium walls, as the excitement behind, and thought of a first-time championship-winning sweep loomed.

DeRosa put up a wall on the right side, blocking shot after shot — making five blocks to go along with four kills — to help his team to a 23-16 advantage.

Legge said DeRosa’s play set the tone for the Bulls’ defense.

“Dave with those blocks on the right side — he just killed it — he was one-on-one with a lot of them and usually that’s an advantage for the other team,” the coach said, adding that those blocks were a difference-maker. “But big boy was getting up, getting hands on it — he was awesome.”

The Flaming Arrows flamed out, gave up the next two points and the championship.

“They’re a great team — they have the ability to come back from any deficit, so it wasn’t until that last point that it became real,” DeRosa said. “I was very surprised that it went three games, but we were ready for a dogfight.”

Smithtown West will return to Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood Nov. 19 to make its state tournament debut. Pool play begins at 10 a.m., and should the Bulls advance to the finals, the first set it scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

Smithtown East's Brooke Berroyer (#1) is all smiles as she leads her team off the court following the win. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Smithtown East girls’ volleyball team is peaking at the right time.

The team took care of business in the Class AA semifinals Nov. 7, avenging a semifinal loss to Ward Melville last season. The No. 2 Bulls came away victorious at home in straight sets against the No. 3 Patriots, 25-20, 25-12 and 25-23 to advance to the finals. The team will take on No. 1 Connetquot at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.

Smithtown East's Haley Anderson sends the ball back over. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Haley Anderson sends the ball back over. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought we were pretty consistent with our serving, and I just knew we could get it together,” said Smithtown East junior outsite hitter Morgan Catalonatto. “Now we’ll just continue do what we’ve been doing all season long.”

After a 5-5 tie in the opening set, the Bulls put together a string of service points. Couple that with crowd-gasping defense, and the team jumped out to a 24-19 advantage. Serving break point was junior setter Brooke Berroyer, who led her team to victory with 28 assists.

Ward Melville lost to the Bulls Oct. 18 in five sets, but the semifinal matchup was different.

The Bulls were everywhere on the court — high above the net, flat on the floor — and dig after dig the Smithtown East savored its advantage. Senior outside hitter and co-captain Haley Anderson went on a service tare and rattled off seven unanswered points to put her team out front 12-5 in the second set.

A threat in any row, Anderson also tallied 14 kills and 14 digs in the contest.

“As a team we needed to keep our composure, focus on each point, one point at a time, and not harp on the little mistakes,” Anderson said. “Steph Berdon really stepped it up — who is our middle — and Brooke Berroyer, she played well and that help us out.”

Ward Melville's Lara Atalay seves. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Lara Atalay seves. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville began making mental errors — sending a service out of bounds and dropping two balls, which prompted Ward Melville head coach Charlie Fernandes to call timeout.

“We’ve been chasing ourselves in terms of unforced errors all season long, but in the past two playoff games they really cut down [on these],” Fernandes said. “I think tonight we were a little nervous and a little jumpy.”

Seizing the opportunity, the Bulls surged ahead 20-11 before an unforced error. Ward Melville wouldn’t score again though, and Smithtown East tallied the final five points to put the set away.

Smithtown East head coach George Alamia said he was surprised following the first two sets, knowing what Ward Melville has been able to accomplish on the court.

“I knew that the third set was going to be the toughest game — that’s an unbelievable program over there,” he said. “We followed their lead when I first started this program in 2005. It’s like the Patriots in the NFL, [but in volleyball], it’s the Ward Melville Patriots you follow. [You follow] a winning team, one that’s won a lot of championships, and I have tremendous respect for Charlie Fernandes.”

Smithtown East's Brook Berroyer and Steph Berdon battle at the net. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Brook Berroyer and Steph Berdon battle at the net. Photo by Bill Landon

Momentum began to shift midway through the third set when the Patriots, who trailed from the opening volley, clawed their way back to draw within a point, 13-12. The team wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

Ward Melville’s senior outside hitter Lara Atalay dished up a service kill to tie the game at 13-13, and scored again to give Ward Melville its first lead in the set. Both teams traded points to knot the score at 18-18. Again, it was back and forth as the Bulls scored the next three points, only to have the Patriots answer with three of their own to retie the game at 21-21. After a service error, Ward Melville scored next to retie the game at 22-22 and followed it up with a kill shot to edge ahead 23-22.

Berroyer, from the service line, led the Bulls to the tying point, and on the next serve, helped her team to a 24-23 advantage. Serving again for the go-ahead score, the Bulls made it 24-23 and Berroyer, like she’d done in each of the three sets, scored the final point for her team.

“We have a shot to win the county [championship] against probably the best team in the state — Connetquot,” Alamia said. “We’re going to go there, give our best shot and I think we’ll be alright.”

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Right side hitter Brendan Smith blocks the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Senior night was off to a rocky start at Smithtown West, as the Bulls bounced back from a first-set loss to top Sayville 3-1 Oct. 24, 25-16, 25-16, 25-16 and 25-23. At 9-2, the boys’ volleyball team is in third place behind 10-2 Eastport South Manorville and undefeated Sachem North with three games left before the playoffs.

Outside hitter Kevin Kelleher comes through with a kill shot. Photo by Bill Landon
Outside hitter Kevin Kelleher comes through with a kill shot. Photo by Bill Landon

“Our teamwork and our hustle — we [communicated] really well and we played well as a team,” junior outside hitter Kevin Kelleher said. “We’ll keep working and build that family bond and hopefully that will help us in the playoffs.”

Smithtown West head coach Michael Legge said there would be a different mix in the first set, because all five seniors took to the court. The squad pulled within six points late in the set, but couldn’t come back from the deficit.

The second set was a different story, as the Bulls jumped out front 6-2 and rattled off four more straight points before Sayville called timeout.

“This is a deep team — it’s 16 players — not just the six guys you see on the court,” Legge said. “In practice, the [nonstarters are] constantly pushing the starters to play better and better.”

The Golden Flashes broke service and fired back with four unanswered points of their own to trail 10-6, but after the teams traded points, the Bulls notched six more on a service tare to break out to a 16-10 advantage.

Right side blocker Brian Grudman pushes the ball back over the net. Photo by Bill Landon
Right side blocker Brian Grudman pushes the ball back over the net. Photo by Bill Landon

Bull’s outside hitter Chris Shanley led his team to break point and finished it with a booming service ace that caught Sayville flat footed, to take the second set 25-16.

“The second set was the turning point,” Shanley said. “We had to push through there to show them what we’re made of. We passed well, we had good service, and our blocking was a little shaky, but we hit the ball well.”

Smithtown West senior Brendan Smith got things going in the third set, stringing five point volleys in a row to lead his team to a 5-0 lead. Sayville struggled, committing several mental errors to which the Bulls cashed in on.

Out front 10-4, the Bulls turned up the heat, outscoring their opponent 9-2 for a commanding 19-6 advantage. But Sayville wouldn’t go down quietly, and battled backed to trail 23-16.

In the first three sets, with a 25-16 margin of victory for each, the fourth and final set proved to be even more of a nail biter.

Sayville peppered the scoreboard with 12 points early in the fourth set as the Bulls managed just three. Although the match made it look like the game would end up going to a fifth set, Smithtown West chipped away at the deficit and scored nine unanswered points as Sayville’s defense began to sputter, committing several unforced errors.

Right side hitter Brendan Smith sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon
Right side hitter Brendan Smith sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior right side blocker Brian Grudman answered with a thundering service ace to put his team out front for the first time in the set, 13-12, and said his team had to just shake it off as the Bulls got their head back in the game.

“Our hustle and our ability to pick ourselves back up — not giving up on any balls [is what led us to the win],” he said. “We’re going to raise the net, show some hustle work our butts off as hard as we can.”

Ahead 17-14 lead, Sayville soon brought the set to a 23-23 tie, which prompted a timeout. Sayville gave Smithtown West break point on a service error, and the Bulls made them pay for it, scoring the final point to put the set away.

“They’ve really bought into the team concept — the court defense, the passing, the hustle that they show,” Legge said. “We push that for every single point every single game, and you don’t say die until the ball hits the floor.”

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Felicity Hoffert and Kate Chong leap up for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East continues to dominate the volleyball court.

The girls’ team improved to 8-0 and remain atop the League III leaderboard with a three-set win over Riverhead Oct. 17, 25-11, 25-11 and 25-10.

Melissa Oliveri sends the ball over. Photo by Bill Landon.
Melissa Oliveri sends the ball over. Photo by Bill Landon.

Smithtown East head coach George Alamia did not start several of his starters in an effort to keep the score close and enhance his younger players, but it didn’t matter.

“They’re great team leaders — they make everyone around them better and as you can see we don’t have a huge drop off when they don’t play,” Alamia said. “Today we had good ball control against [Riverhead] and our back up setter Marissa Oliveri has great hands and she moved the ball around really well today.”

The Bulls started out slow in the first set, but retook the lead 8-7 and showed their dominance, rattling off point after point to put the set away, stringing together 11 unanswered points along the way.

Sophomore right side hitter Grace Faulhaber said her teams’ strength was its ability to rally back even after falling behind.

“I loved the way even when we lost the point, we found a way to get it back,” she said. “We dig deep, we’ll get that pass and then [we can] get that hit.”

The second set was much like the first, and Alamia continued to go deeper into his bench.

“As a team, we all work together — we never get down on each other and we always find a way to push through points to stay in the game,” junior outside hitter Alex Colon said. “We motivate each other and it’s [how we] bond together. That’s the most important part of the game.”

Grace Faulhaber serves. Photo by Bill Landon
Grace Faulhaber serves. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior outside hitter Haley Anderson, an All-State and All-Long Island player the last two years, along with senior libero Jill Pesce, junior outside hitter Steph Berdon and junior setter Brooke Berroyer all watched the action from the sidelines.

Alamia said the quartet provides the ingredients that are enabling his team to compete for a 10th consecutive League III title, adding that the players bring the consistency and a championship attitude every day to practice.

With the balance of the roster seeing action in the third set though, you wouldn’t know the power foursome wasn’t in the mix.

Alamia said he will continue to focus on strengthening his secondary going down the stretch in preparation for the postseason.

“When we go around and Haley’s in the back row, we need to grow in some areas offensively,” the head coach said. “We’ve made progress — we’ve gotten better — and I think we’ll be at our strongest come playoff time.”

Senior middle Kate Chong said her team’s defense continues to make the difference.

“We picked up a lot of balls — even the ones that were close,” Chong said. “We just push ourselves so hard, and we’ve been playing together since sixth grade, so we have a strong bond.”

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Ashley and Taylor Catoggio served up key points for Port Jefferson's girls' volleyball team. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Port Jefferson’s Catoggio twins served up some double trouble for Greenport/Southold Oct. 13.

The two took matters into their own hands, serving up a combined 11 aces to help the Royals to a 3-0 sweep of the Clippers during Dig Pink nights, 25-15, 25-22 and 25-12.

Junior Izzie Love leaps up for a spike. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior Izzie Love leaps up for a spike. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“The serves were going my way, and the excitement of the team cheering you on helps,” sophomore middle and outside hitter Taylor Catoggio said. “I was happy. We worked as a team and didn’t just individually play.”

After senior Katie Chorao scored three straight points with her serve to give her team a 16-13 lead in the first set, Greenport called timeout. The Clippers scored two battle-back points, but the Royals tallied the final nine, with Catoggio serving up the last five points to take the set 25-15.
“The girls played really well and that was a tough game,” Port Jefferson head coach Maddy Combs said. “The Catoggio sisters did awesome with their serving — that was our best quality. Our setters did a great job getting good balls up for them to hit, our tipping was great and they covered really well today.”

Taylor Catoggio opened the second set with a block and scored four aces to put the Royals out front 6-1. Greenport/Southold bounced back to tie 13-13, but a bad Clippers serve gave Port Jefferson the ball back. Outside hitter Ashley Catoggio gave her team a 15-13 lead on serves, but Chorao’s out of bounds serve later in the set put the teams in a 20-20 stalemate. The two traded points, with Ashley Catoggio serving the ball first, and her sister closed out the set with the final two service points for a 25-22 win.

“I think the most important thing is for us to talk to each other on the court,” Ashley Catoggio said. “Serving is also really important. If you don’t serve well then you don’t play well. We get a lot of points from that.”

Senior Juliana Napoli sets up the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Senior Juliana Napoli sets up the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Midway through the third set, sophomore center Lia Desmond slammed home four straight points for a 13-4 edge that forced Greenport/Southold to call for timeout to regroup.

“We stayed aggressive and kept the energy and positivity up on the court,” the center said. “We’ve always been playing Greenport in playoffs, so it’s a great feeling to come away with this win.”

Chorao had a short service tare, and as happened all game, Greenport/Southold’s out-of-bounds serves and miscommunication on the court turned the ball back over to Port Jefferson. Ashley Catoggio closed out the game with the final two service points. Chorao finished the game with four digs. Senior libero Juliana Napoli tallied five digs and one ace. Junior middle blocker Izzie Love added three kills and one block.

“I’ve seen tremendous growth,” Combs said of her team, although adding she’d like her Royals to work on getting passes to the setter to run the offense more smoothly. “The first time we played Greenport it was a five-set game, so for them to come away with three shows tremendous, tremendous growth. They’re communicating extremely well on the court, they know where each other is and they’re coming together really well as a unit.”

Kingsmen have won all six matchups, 3-0, this season

Carly Esterson opened the first set on a service tare, scoring 10 straight points. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

When you think of girls’ volleyball, you think Kings Park.

The Kingsmen have been a powerhouse for years, and despite losing strong seniors each year, the team continues its winning ways. In the still early season, Kings Park has managed to sweep all five of its opponents leading up to the Sept. 19 matchup against Comsewogue, which was no different.

The Kingsmen invaded Warrior territory, and although Comsewogue came close in the second set, the five-time Long Island champions prevailed, defeating their opponent 25-7, 25-17, 25-6.

Kings Park head coach Ed Manly was happy with the result the team put up despite its much different roster.

“We had a little bit of a different [mix] out there today, so that was an adjustment for our girls,” Manly said. “If you haven’t seen us play before, you wouldn’t know we’ve had a serious adjustment to our lineup.”

Sophomore Carly Esterson set the tone early with an unbroken service rally that put Kings Park out front 11-1. It was the setter’s first varsity start, but you wouldn’t know it, as she settled in scoring point after point.

Kings Park's Lauren Kloos tallies a kill. Photo by Bill Landon
Kings Park’s Lauren Kloos tallies a kill. Photo by Bill Landon

“I don’t really play much, but we were together mentally on the floor,” Esterson said. “We had good communication.”

Comsewogue struggled at the net — having a hard time finding a rhythm — as Kings Park demonstrated why they’ve gone to the New York State quarterfinals four out of the last five years.

Momentum shifted in the next, as Comsewogue closed within three points midway through the second set, trailing 17-14. It would be as close as the team would come though, as Kings Park slammed the door, taking the set 25-17.

Manly pushed deep into his roster throughout the game, and each player on the team saw action.

“Everyone from the first kid on the floor to the last kid on the bench got after it tonight,” he said. “They played hard, they were loud and vocal, so there’s a real sense of family on the court. They feed off of that.”

The Kingsmen turned up the heat in the third set, jumping out to a 13-3 advantage, forcing Comsewogue to call a time out. Looking for the first win of the season, Comsewogue head coach Kevin Parker did not doubt Kings Parks’ power.

Comsewogue's Georgia Alexiou battles at the net. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Georgia Alexiou battles at the net. Photo by Bill Landon

“We knew Kings Park was going to be good — we know their reputation,” Parker said. “But our girls have been putting in a lot of work this year. We’re building, and the hope is to turn this program around.”

Senior outside hitter Lauren Kloos said her teams’ preparation was no different from any other game, and Kings Park put the matter to bed, and dominated the final set, claiming a 25-6 set to sweep the match.

“We faced Comsewogue like we prepare for any [team],” she said. “We put in our practice and we get ready. Our sophomore setter [Carly Esterson] — the way she stepped up — she completely killed it, so to be able to communicate and adapt to a new setter on the court, we did it really well. I don’t think we could’ve done it any better.”

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