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Steph Berdon

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Smithtown East's Allie Brady spikes the ball over Patchogue-Medford defenders reaching for the block. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Brooke Berroyer smacks down one of her 11 kill shots. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

No. 3 Smithtown East’s girls volleyball team breezed through the opening round of the Class AA playoffs Oct. 30, taking down No. 14 Patchogue-Medford in three sets 25-13, 25-16, 25-13.

Senior outside hitter Brooke Berroyer, who had 11 kills and was strong from the service line, said she was surprised by what the Raiders brought to the court.

“They were better than I was expecting them to be — they had really good defense, their block are pretty big, but I think our defense played really well today,” she said. “Our setter, [senior Marissa Oliveri, who had 35 assists], was moving the ball around today, we had a lot of different hitters today, we were all hitting very effectively.”

Senior middle Steph Berdon went on serve streak with Berroyer to put the Bulls out front 10-4 in the opening set, forcing Pat-Med to call the first timeout of the afternoon. The break didn’t help the Raiders though, as Smithtown East surged ahead 21-11 as the visitors called for another pause.

Smithtown East’s Marissa Oliveri sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Berroyer picked up where she left off, gaining more Bulls points from the service line until the score was 9-5. Junior outside hitter Katy Curran slammed a kill shot from high above the net before Pat-Med asked for another timeout.

The Raiders were able to keep pace from there, trailing by four points until the Bulls stepped on the gas and broke out to a 23-15 advantage.

Senior outside hitter Allie Brady also noted Patchogue-Medford’s defense despite the score.

“Their defense was amazing, it was tough to get the ball to hit the floor,” she said. “We had good communication and trust in each other and that built confidence.”

Oliveri continued to help set up plays as Smithtown East jumped out to an 8-1 advantage in the third, but pointed to her teammates, who she said lightened her load.

“I thought our passing was amazing — they were making my job easier, it easier for the hitters to get their swings on every ball,” she said. “They fought hard, and we had to step up our game and push through.”

Smithtown East’s Felicity Hoffert, who tallied 10 kills, tries to put the ball past a Raiders block. Photo by Bill Landon

With the help of junior right side hitter Felicity Hoffert, who finished with 10 kills, the Bulls edged ahead 19-11 before closing out the set.

Smithtown East has now won its last five games, and head coach George Alamia said he never doubted what his team is capable of, especially with many of his athletes prior experience in the postseason.

“It’s a playoff game; it’s a mentality, and we had that tonight,” he said. “We’ve been here before — a lot of these kids have been in long playoff runs — so they know that they can’t let up.”

Smithtown East is back in action Nov. 1 hosting No. 6 Ward Melville at 5 p.m.

“We’re pretty versatile with our offense — our top four hitters were right around each other 10 or 11 kills, not one person dominated our play,” Alamia said. “We’ll challenge them to get better in certain areas but our ball control is great, we pulled away with our defense in this game and that gives us a chance to win any round.”

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.”