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Gabrielle Pirrung

The top ranked League I girls’ volleyball team had a chance at revenge, and they made it count.

No. 1 Ward Melville fell to No. 2 Commack in five sets back in September for the Patriots first loss of the season. Since then, the girls’ volleyball team had its eyes on avenging its only League I defeat.

“It was a tough loss, but we definitely used it as fire to power ourselves to keep working,” senior libero Ellen Li said. “It’s something we looked at and we worked on and it made us work harder each day. We wanted nothing more than to come back.”

The Patriots fought back to sweep Commack in three sets on senior night Oct. 17, 25-21, 25-18 and 25-23.

Despite winning the match in straight sets, the affair was a constant battle.

“Last time we knew what we did wrong, and we turned a corner and fixed everything that went wrong in that game, in the games we played leading up to this game,” senior outside hitter Olivia Hynes said. “We can get into these holes, but we talk to each other and we get out of it right away.”

“We came through with strong defense and the serve receives when the score was tight. If we made an error we were able to push through it.”

— Lara Atalay

A short serve put Ward Melville ahead 10-5 midway through the first set, but the Cougars battled back to tie 13-13. After scoring the next point, Ward Melville head coach Charlie Fernandes was forced to call timeout.

“They keep getting in their own way, but they also battle their way out of it, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “We’re setting the ball well, we play nice defense and our middles are a big surprise to everybody — they’re really doing a great job. Everyone knew we had two good outsides, but to add the two middles and the right side, we have a very complete volleyball team.”

Commack went on a tare of its own to pull ahead 19-16 in the set, but junior middle blocker Schuyler Tasman came through with a block and a send over on volley that Commack could not recover, to tie the score 19-19. The two teams traded tallies over the next four points, but an out of bounds Commack hit and Tasman serve led Ward Melville to the first-set win.

“I’m happy that we won,” Fernandes said. “I think it puts us in a good position to hopefully win the league and that should seed us well for the playoffs. We’re still making too many unforced errors for my liking, but we still have a few weeks to get ready, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Ward Melville had an easier time taking the second set. The teams continued to trade points until a missed kill opportunity pulled Commack within one point, 19-18.

“We were strong getting out of tough situations,” Li said. “It’s perseverance and resilience — we’re always thinking about each other — even when we’re in tough situations we talk through it.”

“It’s perseverance and resilience — we’re always thinking about each other — even when we’re in tough situations we talk through it.”

—Ellen Li

Communication and chemistry helped the Patriots take the final six points for the 2-0 lead in the match.

The Patriots are comfortable in five-set matches, having won three so far this year, but they didn’t want to see that happen again against Commack. In the third set, down 23-21, a timeout helped the team regroup. An out of bounds Commack serve closed the gap to 23-22, and a botched dig evened the score. Ward Melville forced two more errors to sweep the game.

“We came through with strong defense and the serve receives when the score was tight,” senior outside hitter Lara Atalay said. “If we made an error, we were able to push through it and come through with a pass. It says a lot about our team. I trust my team and have a lot of confidence. We’ve had the ability to come through in any tight situation all season, and being able to come through in that tight ending was a great feeling.”

Hynes said she was happy to see her team enter the game with confidence and use that to its advantage, but she’d like to see that every time the team steps onto the court.

“This game we started off really strong and started off with a win, which set the tempo and created a different mindset for the whole game, so I want us to work on coming in strong every single game,” she said. “I wanted to look back to a great senior game we played here, so to be able to have that memory is irreplaceable.”