After a one-year year hiatus, the Suffolk County Division II Championship is back in Manorville.
The Eastport South Manor boys volleyball team defeated East Hampton, 3-1, at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Thursday, November 6. It’s the Sharks’ fourth county title in the past five years—they had lost to Sayville in last year’s county championship match.
“Winning a championship is the best feeling in the world,” said ESM senior co-captain Tyler Brandow following the match. “We lost last year, so this is a great morale boost for the team.”
ESM advanced to the Long Island Championship on Saturday, where it defeated Roslyn, 3-1, for its first Long Island title in three years.
ESM and East Hampton seemed to measure one another up through the first two games last week. ESM won the first game, 25-14, but East Hampton answered right back with a 25-16 victory in game two. After going back and forth for the first half of game three, ESM began to take hold following consecutive aces from senior Josh Undari to take a 13-7 lead. The Sharks went on to take the game, 25-12.
The fourth game started in similar fashion, only ESM didn’t take a three-point lead until 18-15, prompting East Hampton head coach Josh Brussell to call a time out. The Bonackers cut their deficit to two points, at 20-18, but that was as close as they would get. Brandow scored the final three points for the Sharks, including the game-winner at 25-19.
Brandow finished with 23 kills, 17 digs, three aces and three blocks, and said no words could describe what he was feeling after his title-clinching kill. “Those last few points, I demanded the ball,” he said. “I told my setter [Undari]—he’s a great setter—to give me the ball. I knew I was going to get [the point] because I was so confident.”
Undari, who totaled 38 assists, said it was a no-brainer to set up his teammate Brandow: “We had multiple hitters that game, but Tyler was the best one the entire match.”
ESM head coach Bruce Stiriz was hoping his team’s chemistry would give it the edge over a strong East Hampton team. He wasn’t disappointed. “I’m so proud of them,” Stiriz said. “They fought, they really fought hard.
“My hats off to East Hampton. I thought they did a great job,” he added. “They weren’t letting anything fall, so we had to keep on swinging.”
Ryan Byrne finished with 22 digs for ESM, and Brandow wasn’t the only Shark to finish with double-digit kills: Kyle Allen-Morabito had 11, while Tom Ogeka had 12. It was Brandow, though, who pushed the team to victory, bringing praise from his head coach.
“He was in total focus—I mean, he was leading this team,” Stiriz said. “He was telling the guys just to follow him, and that’s what they did. I kept telling my setter, ‘He’s in the zone—let’s keep feeding him the ball.’ Tyler did an outstanding job.”
Brussell, though, didn’t think it was solely Brandow who hurt his team. He gave more credit to Allen-Morabito.
“Brandow, their outside [hitter], hits consistently, but he’s not too tough to dig,” Brussell said. “[Allen-Morabito] was hitting all over the place. They had him on the front line, he would come out of the back to hit, and he could hit in the middle too. He’s the guy that definitely got the brunt of the big kills against us.”
Brussell gave credit to ESM overall and said that more experience in big matches probably helped the Sharks in the long run. “We didn’t play our best game, and it’s a tough day to not have our best game,” he said. “Our passing was a little off. Our serve/receive was good, but not as good as it had been the past week or so. We played very well against Sayville [in the county semifinal]. Our numbers weren’t what they were normally were. Whereas, we played [ESM] about a week ago and we played a better game than they did.”
East Hampton had defeated ESM, 3-2, at home on October 27, which helped the Bonackers win the regular-season Division II title for the first time since 2009, and take top seed in the county bracket. Brussell didn’t think that win made his players overconfident.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy match,” he said. “Even though we were the number-one seed, we went in there knowing it could go either way since we were evenly matched.”
East Hampton will graduate a number of players in June. Brady Yusko, Matthew Lownes, Matthew McMullen, Robert Anderson, Will Ellis, Matthew Smudzinski, Nick Neubert, Patrick Silich and Kyle Fallon will all be gone by the time next season comes around.
“I think, in general, the season started off a little shaky, but halfway though we started to play as a team,” Brussell said. “I think we did better than most people expected to us to.”