For a moment on Saturday afternoon in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals, it looked like the Hampton Bays girls volleyball team was going to do something that only a handful of teams have done in recent years: win a set over powerhouse Elwood/John Glenn.
Thanks to a kill by junior Alex Maitland-Ward, Hampton Bays held a 23-20 lead late in the first set at Glenn, forcing Lady Knights head coach Kevin Harrington to call a timeout. Out of the break, Glenn scored two points then got a little bit of luck to tie the score.
A Glenn player served the ball that hit the net and, at first, it looked as though the ball was going to land on Glenn’s court, giving the point to Hampton Bays. But the ball got tangled up in the net and wound up landing in front of unsuspecting Hampton Bays sophomore setter Reiss Lovett, and Glenn tied things up at 23-23.
The Lady Knights went on to win the first set, 25-23, then won the second and third sets by scores of 25-17, 25-12. It’s the fourth consecutive season that the Lady Baymen have been eliminated in the semifinals by Glenn.
“On that serve, the ball hit just underneath the tape on the net and rolled over and landed straight down. It just didn’t go our way,” Hampton Bays head coach Andy Fotopoulos said. “We fought hard, but they’re John Glenn, they weren’t going to give it to us.”
Both teams played well defensively. There were times when a ball looked like it was going to come down on the court and a Hampton Bays or Glenn player would keep it in play somehow. But the Lady Knights had some luck on their side to go along with their good court skills.
“The goal was to win the first one and see what happens,” Fotopoulos said. “We wanted to take that first game and put all of the pressure on them, because there’s a different feeling when you’re down 1-0, as opposed to being up 1-0. You lose that first game, there’s that added pressure.”
Maitland-Ward finished with seven kills, six of which came in that first game. Christen Bellucci and Victoria Laureano, both seniors, had three kills each. Junior Samantha Pace had four kills and nine digs while sophomore Alexis Fotopoulos had eight assists, 13 digs and two aces. Jean Louise Catena, a junior, had 14 digs.
Coach Fotopoulos was disappointed in Saturday’s loss to Glenn but was happy with how the season went. The Lady Baymen started off with a big victory over Bayport/Blue Point, which was one of the other semifinalists in Class B, and continued that success through the first half of the season. After a little lull towards the end of the season, Hampton Bays picked things back up just in time for its home playoff win over Mount Sinai before facing Glenn.
“Coming into the season, I figured if we made the playoffs we had a great season,” Coach Fotopoulos said. “We did a lot better than that.”
Bellucci, Laureano, Taylor Link and Carolyn Muller are all seniors who are expected to graduate in June. Coach Fotopoulos said all four will be missed, but Laureano’s position in the middle is going to be the toughest to fill.
“There’s no one on varsity right now to replace Tori at middle,” he said. “But we do have a good group coming back. We have three setters coming back, Alex [Maitland-Ward], our best hitter, is coming back. Jean, my libero, is coming back and so are Sam Pace and Alexis. I expect to get back to the playoffs next year.”
The Lady Baymen won their first playoff game since 2009 in a 3-0 victory over Mount Sinai at home in the Suffolk County Class B outbracket game on Thursday, October 31.
Coach Fotopoulos said that it was one of the best matches his team played in recent weeks. Mount Sinai really only threatened Hampton Bays in the first set, and the Lady Baymen wound up winning 25-20. They went on to win the next two sets 25-15, 25-18.
For the first time maybe all season, Hampton Bays didn’t have to rely on Maitland-Ward for all of its offense. Bellucci stepped up and had 10 kills and Alexis Fotopoulos put together a good all-around game with six kills, 12 assists and 10 digs. Catena had 15 digs and Laureano had six kills and five blocks.
“[Mount Sinai] wasn’t bad; we just played really well,” Coach Fotopoulos said.