Smithtown Easts Sean Baxley #24, sets up he kill shot....

Smithtown Easts Sean Baxley #24, sets up he kill shot. (Sept. 15, 2010) Credit: George A. Faella

It was as efficient as it was dominant. It took three games, in roughly an hour, to decide matters.

More than anything, it served as a statement to future opponents: The Smithtown East boys volleyball team is for real.

With surgical precision, host East dissected a talented Ward Melville squad in non-league play, 25-18, 25-20, 25-15, Wednesday.

"It was a nice win against a respected team," Smithtown East setter Sean Baxley said. "We have a lot to improve on, especially in the service area."

Added outside hitter Tyler Donofrio: "We just played our game and shut them down."

Early in the first set, East jumped out to leads of 5-1 and 12-7. But Baxley set the tone, blocking two attempted kills from Ward Melville's ace outside hitter Eric Rizzo at scores of 10-6 and 22-17.

"It's always nice to block their best player, but I'm good friends with Eric," Baxley said.

Baxley totaled 20 assists and four solo blocks, and Donofrio added nine kills.

With the Baxley-Donofrio combo, libero Jason Carroll and Andrew Sanchez, East looked like a unit capable of making noise later in the season.

Early in the second game, during a lull in the action, the Smithtown players joked around with one another, smiling and whooping it up as if recess were in session.

It was not a show of disrespect. Rather, it signified early-season cohesion for the League II favorites. "We like to keep tensions low during the game," Donofrio said.

Added Sanchez: "We play the game because we like to have fun.''

Play resumed, and they overcame some resistance from the Patriots to take the second game and jump out to a 10-1 cushion in the third.

Ward Melville, still among the top League I contenders, never recovered from the 0-2 hole.

"The first two games, we didn't play too bad," Rizzo said. "The third game is when things fell apart. By the end of the season, we'll be playing a lot better."

East, conversely, appeared to be firing on all cylinders before opening its League II schedule. The players talked about improving their serving and defense.

Said Sanchez: "We have a lot of improvement ahead of us.''

Although Ward Melville was not the stern test many expected, it served a greater purpose.

"It's not just about an undefeated season," Donofrio said. "We want to play the best teams we can to get ready for the playoffs."

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