The Eastport-South Manor boys volleyball team dominated the present, while being mindful of the program’s past.
The Sharks won the program’s first state Division II championship last month with dozens of former players and alumni in attendance, and the team said that made its title even more meaningful.
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“All the alumni deserve this win just as much as we do,” middle hitter Quinn Foglia said. “It was awesome all of them were here tonight.”
“This is a family. When family graduates, that doesn’t mean they’re not family anymore,” coach Bruce Stiriz said. “We’ve always had that understanding at ESM. My two assistant coaches . . . I coached them. All the alumni that came back, it’s a wonderful experience.”
ESM reached the state final in 2010, 2011 and 2014, but this year’s team (15-2 overall) delivered a championship by defeating Spencerport, 3-1, in the title match.
“I remember the first team that went up to Glens Falls, and when they didn’t come out winning, I remember thinking, ‘I want to win a state championship,’ ” outside hitter Tommy Ogeka said.
Brennen Brandow, who had seven kills and 15 digs in the state championship victory, was especially aware of the program’s history, given that his brothers Ryan, Connor and Tyler also played for the Sharks.
“My brothers told me, ‘This is what you’re going to remember in high school,’ ” Brandow said. “It’s even better than I pictured it.”
Brandow added that “our seniors deserve this as much as anyone.”
The outgoing senior class includes Ryan Byrne, who had 30 kills and nine digs in the final, and Parker Bachisin, who had 44 assists.
They were joined in the starting lineup by Chris Suarez and Rob Choma. Joe Carmada, Matt Suarez, Tim Jurgielwicz and Jake Danowski were key role players, and rounded out the senior class.
“I couldn’t have asked for better teammates,” Bachisin said. “I’ve never been on a team that was so close with each other.”
Eastport-South Manor began the season as the top seed in Suffolk, returning most of its key players from last year’s team that reached the county Division I championship (a slight increase in enrollment pushed ESM into Division I in 2015, while a slight decrease brought it back down to Division II this year).
The Sharks won their first nine matches before narrow losses to Sachem North and Smithtown East. They surged from there, winning five straight matches and dropping just one set in the process.
“We won together and we’re going to be here next year,” Foglia said.