It's tall order for defending LI champ Massapequa to repeat

Massapequa's players huddle against Bethlehem. (Nov. 19, 2011)

Massapequa's players huddle against Bethlehem. (Nov. 19, 2011) (Credit: Pat Orr)

Massapequa volleyball has been flying high, entering this season as the defending Long Island champions with three straight county titles.

NASSAUCLASS AMassapequa expects to be one of Nassau's best yet again, but must replace six seniors from their most recent championship team, four of which were 6-4 or taller. Coach Steve Mariano said he would have a more flexible rotation this season with more players having to step into new roles. Senior middle hitter Steven Woessner does return, bringing his 6-4 frame to patrol the net as one of Long Island's best.

Plainview JFK returns seniors middle Jae Hoon Han and right side hitter Noah Smitelli, while David Kim is a first-year starter at outside hitter. Look for Plainview to make another run at a county title, and note Oct. 16 when Massapequa hosts Plainview in a rematch of the county finals. Senior middle hitter Jongho Byun leads Port Washington, while Hicksville should also contend. Syosset returns 11 players, led by seniors Zack Weinreb, Ian Hecht, and Michael Schaake.


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CLASS B Floral Park won Class B last season but county runner-up Bellmore JFK could be the team to beat this year. The Cougars return all six of their starters and nine players overall, led by junior Gary Anderson and senior co-captain Matt Murphy. Anderson is a returning All-County player on the right side while Murphy is the team's most powerful hitter on the outside. Senior co-captain Jake Sherman also returns as the team's best setter. Senior setter Pat MacDonald will lead an inexperienced Floral Park team, which hopes it can make another postseason run despite losing most of its championship roster. Roslyn has three players returning for their fourth varsity season in seniors Alex Gubernikoff, Jae Jun and Stephen Levy. West Hempstead and Jericho also will present a challenge for teams in Class B.

SUFFOLKLEAGUE I

Class A will be highly competitive this season, and League I alone is stacked with some of the top teams on Long Island. Lindenhurst returns as the reigning county champions with senior Michael Comens, who coach Kevin Muscarello called "one of the most dominant outside hitters in the county," and senior Chris DeLucie, who is a 6-4 returning All-County setter. Northport fell to Lindenhurst in last year's Suffolk final and returns four starters. Seniors outside hitter Kyle MacKnight and middle hitter Tyler Wojcik will be key up front, while senior setter Brian Eyring enters his first season as a full-time starter. Sachem East is the team most frightening to the League I competition with no player shorter than 5-11 in its starting six. Senior outside hitter Nick Laffin is 6-5 and makes a fantastic trio with fellow outside hitter John Sobel and setter Tyler Jones. Senior middle hitters Nester Payne, 6-5, Joe Santarpia, 6-2, and D'Andre Smith, are all primarily basketball players, and coach Bill Kropp says Smith can jump 11 feet high.

Half Hollow Hills is built around senior outside hitter Calvin Manchenko, and hopes to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

Sachem North will rely on its only returning starter in senior middle hitter John Echel and senior outside hitter Brian Trusley, while Ward Melville returns senior Alec Sobocinski as its only player with varsity experience.

LEAGUE II

Connetquot expects a bounce-back year, moving to League II, returning 11 seniors led by middle hitter Bobby Nilsen and junior middle Sean Labriola. Smithtown East is a young and inexperienced bunch fresh off an appearance in the Suffolk semis, returning seniors middle hitter Steven Tarquinio and setter Ken Barthman.

Smithtown West has right side hitter James Hubbs and outside hitter Matt Shanley, and hosts rival Smithtown East in its final regular season match on Oct. 30.

LEAGUE III

Eastport-South Manor will seek its third consecutive Long Island championship in the small school division, coming off back-to-back undefeated league seasons. ESM is the favorite, returning seniors outside hitters Connor Brandow and Brandon Calderone and senior setter Thomas Jordan. Sayville returns junior setter Scott Litvin and senior outside hitter Daniel Feuring and along with East Hampton should be ESM's toughest competition.

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