Justine Abbate's 37 kills lead Massapequa to state tournament
That legacy -- 14 straight county championships -- paints Massapequa girls volleyball as the perpetual champion, the always favorite, the team with nothing left to prove. The ending of the Class AA Long Island championship paints another picture entirely.
Joy, tears, guttural screams, uncontrollable laughter and an unending dogpile. After six years of coming to this point and losing to Suffolk, these Chiefs -- the ones with only one returning starter and a slew of underclassmen -- have finally arrived.
Behind Justine Abbate's 37 kills and a gritty defensive performance by libero Mikayla Porr (30 digs), Massapequa overcame Smithtown East, 25-16, 13-25, 25-17, 25-10 at St. Joseph's College Saturday night to advance to the state tournament in Glens Falls next week. The Chiefs won it all the last time they made the trip, in 2007.
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"I can't describe it. I can't," coach CarolAnn Habeeb-Kiel said. "This team has dumbfounded me . . . I have no words. I can't explain it."
After winning Game 1, the Chiefs (16-0) fell victim to a 7-0 run, punctuated by back-to-back kills by Kendra Harlow in Game 2, and dropped six of the first seven points in Game 3.
"But we took it point by point," said Abbate, an outside hitter who called losing to Ward Melville last year "probably one of the worst feelings ever.
"We didn't let doubt creep in."
Massapequa scored 13 of the next 14 points. A Kole Pollock block, sandwiched by two of her kills, and an Emilie Marzano ace put it away. Smithtown East took an early lead in Game 4, but Massapequa erupted after the teams tied at 9, and ended the match on an 11-0 run. Katie Vedilago had 37 assists, and Alexandra Dillon added 17 kills.
"We're used to being down," Habeeb-Kiel said. "Every [playoff game], we've been down . . . We practice it. We practice like we're losing."
After six long years, that finally means Massapequa gets to win.
Kings Park dominates. The truly intimidating thing about that freight train that is Kings Park girls volleyball, is that with every echoing kill by Amanda Gannon, every perfect set by Kendall Corcoran and every how'd-she-do-that dig by Joelle Goldstein, they're actually getting better.
"If we come out and play our game, no one can stop us," Gannon said after winning her third straight Class A Long Island title.
Kings Park dominated Long Beach, 25-15, 25-14, 25-15 behind Gannon's 19 digs, Corcoran's 36 assists and Goldstein's 11 digs. The Kingsmen (21-0), who move on to the state tournament after third-place finishes two years in a row, have one end in mind.
"The ultimate goal is that championship," coach Elizabeth Manly said. "They've been working so hard the last few years. This is the year they ultimately want it."