It was the perfect warm-up.
The East Hampton girls volleyball team grinded out a three-set win over Bayport/Blue Point at home on Saturday, advancing to the Suffolk County Class B Championship against two-time defending state champion Elwood/John Glenn. The teams were scheduled to meet for the county crown on Wednesday, November 6, at Bay Shore High School at 6 p.m.
While the Lady Knights aren’t quite as potent on offense as they were last year—when lights-out hitter Jackie Malusa powered them to a state title—East Hampton head coach Kathy McGeehan said that Glenn is still “one of the top ball control teams on Long Island.” And while the sweep of Bayport may not indicate a hard-fought match, the Lady Bonackers had to fight for almost every point against the Lady Phantoms, who successfully pushed them out of system at many points in the game. Being forced to find success while out of system—which means the initial pass doesn’t go directly to the setter and thus forces the offense to improvise—was a perfect test for East Hampton leading into the battle with Glenn. McGeehan said after the match that she was most happy with the way her team responded to that type of adversity on the court.
“I expect we’re going to be out of system 60 percent of the time [against Glenn],” she said. “Bayport is tough, and they did a nice job of taking care of the ball. We certainly can fall victim to giving up some points in a row, but I thought every time we did that, we did the best we’ve done all season of battling out of it, and that’s so central for what happens in the playoffs.”
On Saturday, East Hampton won with scores of 25-15, 27-25, and 25-20. After the Lady Bonackers earned a relatively easy win in the first set, the Lady Phantoms looked like the stronger team for much of the second set, leading 15-10 at one point, after getting off to a 5-2 lead. But East Hampton stormed back, taking advantage of Bayport errors while also getting back into a rhythm on offense. Raya O’Neal (19 kills, 18 assists) started to get hot, scoring key points for her team. Carley Seekamp knotted the match at 25-25 with a kill, which was followed by a Katie Brierley ace to put East Hampton up, 26-25. Seekamp stamped the win with another kill.
In the third set, East Hampton went up 15-6, and later had a 23-15 advantage, but the Phantoms cut it to 24-20 before a kill by O’Neal sealed the victory.
O’Neal’s 19 kills were just two shy of her season high. Libero Brierley had 20 digs, while Jenna Budd had 12 digs and six kills. Cassidy Walsh also had six kills, while Seekamp had five aces and setter Lydia Budd had 23 assists.
McGeehan said the key for her team against Glenn will not only be playing well while out of system, but also cutting down on mistakes. She pointed out that in Glenn’s three-set semifinal win over Hampton Bays, it did not misfire on any of its serves.
“They are going to take care of the ball, and keep sending it back, so it has to be as precious to us as it is to them,” she said. “We have to be as aggressive as we are, because if we don’t do that, we’re not playing our game, but if there’s anything we have to be prepared for, it’s the type of game we had [against Bayport].”