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Haley Anderson

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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Smithtown East's Ceili Williams drives the lane in the Bulls' 54-50 Jan. 2 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East's Haley Anderson fights for a rebound while Alexis Perdue reaches to block in the Bulls' 54-50 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Haley Anderson fights for a rebound while Alexis Perdue reaches to block in the Bulls’ 54-50 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s girls’ basketball team trailed from the opening tipoff, and fell behind by as much as 11 points, but the Bulls were able to rally back against Lindenhurst in a nonleague contest that was decided in the final seconds of the game, when Smithtown East junior guard Haley Anderson nailed two free throws to break a tie with 14 seconds left to play to give her team a 52-50 edge.

Junior guard Victoria Redmond added two free throws to help her team to a 54-50 win Saturday.

Smithtown East, trailing by 10 to open the second half, rattled off three unanswered field goals to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to four. Lindenhurst scored next to extend its lead to 40-34 with just over a minute left in the third quarter, and Smithtown East sophomore guard Ceili Williams hit her second three-pointer of the afternoon to again make it a four-point game, 41-37, to open the final quarter.

Having played the Bulldogs twice last season, Williams said her team spent a lot of time in practice preparing for the matchup.

“Our coaches prepared us — and our shots were on today,” Williams said, adding that that hasn’t been the case lately.

Smithtown East's Victoria Redmond scores in the Bulls' 54-50 nonleague victory over Lindenhurst on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Victoria Redmond scores in the Bulls’ 54-50 nonleague victory over Lindenhurst on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Both teams traded points at the free-throw line and Anderson swished both of her attempts to make it a three-point game, as the Bulls trimmed the deficit to 44-41.

Jordan DeBernardo had just one basket in the game, but it was a big one, as the junior guard drained a long distance trey to tie the game 44-44 with five minutes left to play.

“I thought we were prepared for them, but they really pushed us,” DeBernardo said. “Haley [Anderson] wasn’t playing in the beginning, but when she did come in, we played with more energy.”

Sophomore point guard Abby Zeitsiff answered next when her shot found the rim to put the Bulls out front for the first time, 49-48.

In a foul-riddled final two minutes of play, both teams tried to best each other at the free-throw line.

Redmond split the difference in her appearance at the charity stripe, and the Bulls edged ahead 50-48 with less than a minute left in regulation.

“We knew who their better players were and we worked in practice at stopping them,” Redmond said. With 27 seconds left, Lindenhurst went to the free-throw line and sank both to retie the game a 50-50, before the Bulls put the last four points on the scoreboard.

Smithtown East Abby Zeitsiff scores a layup in the Bulls' 54-50 win over Lindenhurst in a nonleague matchup on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East Abby Zeitsiff scores a layup in the Bulls’ 54-50 win over Lindenhurst in a nonleague matchup on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Anderson said her team had to key on Lindenhurst’s Alexis Perdue, but couldn’t contain her, as the senior point guard led the game in scoring with 27 points.

“They have a really good player in No. 12, she’s hard to guard,” Anderson said. “But we picked it up there in the second half and played really well.”

Redmond led her team in scoring with 16 points, followed by Williams with 13, Zeitsiff with 10 and Anderson with eight.

“We made a few adjustments at halftime — we tried to do a better job of slipping those screens and switching and not give them a wide open look,” Smithtown East head coach Tom Vulin said. “We came out on them more in the second half.”

Smithtown East remains atop the League III leaderboard, tied with Riverhead, but that will change on Tuesday when the Bulls travel to take on the Blue Waves for the top spot. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.