Thursday night’s Nassau A-I clash between Bellmore JFK and host South Side was a microcosm of what Long Island’s most competitive conference has been about this fall.
Because of its supreme talent and competition level, Nassau A-I has provided its fair share of seesaw-like matches. File this one away as yet another.
Cameron Montalbano dominated, recording 10 of her 28 kills in the fifth set to carry Bellmore JFK to a 25-18, 21-25, 14-25, 25-19, 25-17 victory. The junior had 31 digs and seven aces. Senior setter Grace Angrisani had 41 assists.
“It was frustrating, it was exciting … it was everything,” Montalbano said.
Catherine Bohlert’s kill put Bellmore JFK ahead 13-9 in the deciding fifth set, and after the sides switched, Bellmore JFK kept applying pressure. Angrisani’s heady push to the back-left corner put her side up 17-11, then three straight aces from Montalbano made the score 20-11. Danielle Farese notched two key kills after that, sealing the win.
Bellmore JFK (5-4) began with a good deal of momentum in hopes of improving on its three-match winning streak. Jennifer Field anchored the team defensively, lifting Bellmore JFK to a 25-18 opening-set win.
Needing a response, South Side (5-4) leaned on Jaden Garelle, Sophia Jackson and Katelyn Tollefsen offensively. Bellmore JFK trailed 23-18 and cut it to 23-21, but consecutive hitting errors handed South Side a 25-21 win that evened the match.
Having capitalized on a couple mistakes, South Side put together its best set in the third. Leading 19-14 after a punishing kill from Garelle, the Cyclone sent Faith LaMacchia to the service line. She served the final six points, delivering South Side a 25-14 win.
That, however, woke up Bellmore JFK.
“When we get a bad pass or something, we just keep each other up,” Angrisani said. “We don’t fall down. We know we can come back. We’ve done it before in the past many times.”
A blistering 9-1 run midway through the fourth set gave Bellmore JFK a commanding 15-7 lead, and although South Side made things interesting when Garelle’s kill made the score 21-16, the hole was too deep to climb out. Bellmore JFK forced the fifth set with a 25-19 victory.
A new contender in Nassau A-I after playing in Nassau A-II last season, Bellmore JFK took its early lumps with a 1-4 start but has since recovered.
Said Montalbano: “The confidence level’s very high, but we have to remember we’re still playing teams we haven’t beaten yet, so we still have to keep pushing ourselves.”