Describing Matt Lownes as energetic or enthusiastic does not do him justice.
The senior, who plays libero for the East Hampton boys volleyball team, was in constant motion in his team’s Suffolk County Division II semifinal at home against Sayville on Monday night—digging the ball in the back row on defense, shouting encouragement to his teammates, jumping up and down on the sidelines between sets, pumping his arms in the air to encourage even more cheers from the already joyfully rowdy crowd.
He seemed to set the tone for Bonackers, who made quick work of the Golden Flashes in a 3-0 victory.
Sayville had moments in each set, early on: The visitors played evenly with the Bonackers and even held slim leads at times. But the victory, and even the sweep, never seemed to be in doubt. East Hampton won with scores of 25-15, 25-23 and 25-23.
The Bonackers will face second seed Eastport South Manor in the county final at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Thursday, November 6, at 6 p.m. ESM dispatched Hauppauge in straight sets in the other semifinal on Monday.
East Hampton beat ESM in a close 3-2 match in their only meeting of the regular season.
East Hampton head coach Josh Brussell described his squad as “a team on a mission” after the win, and it certainly looked that way on the court. The Bonackers limited mistakes and were consistently strong in all facets of the game—serving, passing and hitting with confidence and effectiveness—and they celebrated each kill, block and ace with fervor.
“We played super-consistent,” Brussell said. “We’ve been working on playing smart volleyball, and that’s what we did today. We didn’t run as many plays as we usually do. We set the hot hand, we played where we were supposed to—it was great.”
With formidable blocking in the middle by Will Mackin, sharp serving by Pat Silich, and steady passing by setter Brady Yusko, the Bonackers were firing on all cylinders. Mackin led the team with 12 kills, while Silich had eight kills and five aces, using his formidable jump serve with authority. Robert Anderson had seven kills and two blocks, Yusko had 29 assists and two aces, and Lownes had six digs.
Brussell, in his third year as head coach after serving as assistant coach for several years, went to the county final with the Bonackers two years ago, but said there is something special about this team. “These guys are more together than teams I’ve had in the past,” he said.
The Bonackers are perennial playoff contenders in Division II but have repeatedly fallen short of the county crown. Lownes said he and his teammates have been determined to change that, and added that beating Sayville, a team that has ended their playoff run in years past, felt particularly good.
“We played great,” he said after the game. “These guys have been our rival since my sophomore year, so beating them, there’s nothing better, especially at home with the biggest crowd we’ve ever gotten. There’s nothing better than when the town comes out and supports us.”
The atmosphere in the gym on Monday night was certainly electric, as parents and students packed the bleachers to cheer on the Bonackers. Several members of the East Hampton boys soccer team, who had won their county semifinal playoff game just an hour earlier outside on the turf field, made up a particularly loud cheering section for the volleyball team.
Lownes said having the support of fellow student-athletes means a lot.
“Last Thursday, when we found out our schedules, we got all the captains together between us, soccer and girls volleyball, and said we have to get everyone at all of our games,” Lownes said. “Unfortunately the girls didn’t win. But we all just love supporting each other.
“There’s nothing better than senior year playing sports,” he added. “We all believe in each other.”