It was supposed to be their year.
Since dropping down from Class A to Class B in 2012, the East Hampton girls volleyball team had been stopped short of a Suffolk County title twice by Elwood/John Glenn, a perennial powerhouse that is consistently one of the top teams in New York State. In recent years, the Spiders have been almost untouchable, winning the state championship five times in the last decade, most recently in 2011 and 2012, while winning the county title every season since 2000.
The Lady Bonackers seemed poised to break that streak in what was, by Glenn standards, a “down” year for the Spiders. East Hampton was seeded second in the Class B bracket and hosted the third-seeded Spiders in East Hampton on Saturday.
In the first meeting between the teams this season, Glenn prevailed, 3-1, beating the Lady Bonackers in the Class B semifinals and ending East Hampton’s postseason for the third straight year.
Glenn took the first two sets, 25-15 and 25-23, before East Hampton rallied to win the third set, 25-22. Glenn closed it out with a 25-17 victory in the fourth set.
The Spiders move on to the county final, where they were scheduled to face top seed Bayport/Blue Point on Wednesday, November 5.
East Hampton head coach Kathy McGeehan didn’t hide the fact that she was disappointed with the loss.
“It certainly isn’t fun to lose, let alone lose to the same team now for the third straight year,” she said. “Particularly when what broke down in our game were things that we have been working hard to improve and be prepared for all season.
“I guess the best way to explain what happened is to say that Glenn won the serving and passing game,” McGeehan continued. “Without staying even with your opponent in that match-up, nothing else really gets going.”
The Spiders were certainly on point from behind the service line, led by Grace Cergol, who had four aces to go along with 10 kills and 27 assists. As a team, Glenn had 14 aces. By contrast, East Hampton had 10 aces, led by Catharine Fleming with four, but also committed eight service errors, four of which came at crucial points in the second and fourth sets.
“Glenn was able to really target specific areas of the court, forcing us to adjust our serve-receive formation and personnel,” McGeehan said, pointing out that Glenn forced her team out of rotation twice in the match.
There were bright spots in the loss for East Hampton, as four players had above-average days in terms of hitting percentage.
Senior Carley Seekamp had an “outstanding” match, according to McGeehan, with a career-high hitting percentage—22 kills on 38 swings with one error. Seekamp also had three solo blocks and received serve 16 times with only one error, to go along with nine digs. Sophomore Jacqui Thorsen had six kills on 11 attempts with only one error, while senior Cassidy Walsh had five kills on 13 swings with three errors. Senior setter Lydia Budd had two key attacks for kills as well. Sophomore Danielle Futerman also performed well, particularly in the third set, serving six straight points to bring East Hampton from a 12-18 deficit to an 18-18 tie.
Libero Katie Brierley had 18 service receptions and 13 digs. McGeehan said that Glenn purposely served away from her, a compliment to Brierley’s passing ability. Budd led the team with 17 digs and 28 assists; she said that stat was telling as well. “Glenn’s strategy to make our setter dig the first ball forced us to have other players set the ball, keeping us adjusting, keeping us out of sync,” she said.
Glenn’s attack came from several different players, with three recording 10 or more kills.
In her debriefing with her players after the game, McGeehan said, she focused less on volleyball stats and more on what the sport will mean to her players as they go forward in life.
“We talked about our goal of the daily practice of championship behaviors,” she said. “We talked about our hope that they will have learned something from that practice and learned something by being part of this team that set high goals. It is our goal they will be able to apply those behaviors to other challenges they will face in life.
East Hampton will say goodbye to six seniors, most of whom McGeehan said she and assistant Ashley Ullmann have coached for six years. Seekamp finished the season with 241 single-season kills, ranking her fourth all-time at East Hampton, and she had a career total of 484 kills (fifth all-time) and 136 career blocks (third all-time). Brierley, who is hoping to continue her volleyball career at James Madison University, finished with 1,120 digs, second all-time behind Kim Valverde (1,576), who is playing at the University of Tampa, the top-ranked Division II program in the county. Brierley was also fourth all-time at East Hampton with 155 career aces.
Budd finished her career with 503 assists on the season (fourth all-time), and 1,254 in her career (third all-time), and 190 aces (third all-time). She is hoping to continue her volleyball career as well, potentially at SUNY-Geneseo.
East Hampton will also lose Mahalia Hensler and Mariah Gil.
Despite the all-too-familiar ending to the season, McGeehan accentuated the positive.
“Overall, we finished second in League VI with a 10-2 record, gave League VI champion Westhampton Beach its only loss, and finished third in Class B in the playoffs,” she said. “I would say that is a very successful season.”