Bellport is a small school with big swagger, which has fueled its 16-0 season and ascension to the top of the Suffolk girls volleyball discussion.
The Clippers prefer to go about their business quietly, letting their play represent their skill. Still, they’re battling the expectations that come with making the jump from Suffolk A to AA this season.
“I feel like people view us more as, not underdogs, but because we’re a small school and new to the class, we’re not well recognized right now,” senior setter Courtney Kane said.
It’s not as if the Clippers came out of nowhere. They were 12-6 last season in Suffolk A and lost to Eastport-South Manor in the county quarterfinals. Now in Suffolk AA because of class realignments, they’re building off last year’s success — and then some.
Bellport has mostly dominated its schedule, with 3-2 wins over West Islip and Half Hollow Hills West representing the only blips.
Otherwise, the Clippers have rolled on the strength of relentless defense and a hunger to force teams to earn every point.
“We won’t let you win a point easily,” Kane said. “We’ll always work harder than anyone else. There won’t be a ball touching the ground without a body next to it.”
Fellow setter Alex Krawczyk, a junior, said the motivation to dive all over the court is natural.
“It comes from both our team and our coaches,” she said. “We’re all very determined in the sport. We all have love and passion for it.”
An underlying chemistry also puts the Clippers in the discussion with some of Suffolk’s top teams. Volleyball requires a certain flow and reliance on teammates, making cohesiveness almost as important as individual talent.
Kane, Jillian Donaghy, Jenna Monsell and Juliann Posch all play for Bellport coach Larry Auth on the Rival 17 Travel team, and they’ve been playing together in some capacity since seventh grade. Add in Krawczyk, who plays in the same club league, and there’s a familiarity that goes beyond the high school season.
“The passing, the setting, the hitting, it all goes together,” Auth said. “Their awareness on the court is fantastic.”
The Suffolk AA playoffs figure to be somewhat unpredictable, with potential top seeds like Connetquot, Smithtown East, Ward Melville, Sachem East and Lindenhurst facing competition from relative newcomers like Bellport and Whitman.
Still, the Clippers don’t feel threatened by the top programs. Kane and Krawczyk agreed that they belong in the conversation with those teams.
“We want to prove that Bellport is here to stay,” Kane said.
And make people aware that there’s an undefeated team in Suffolk with lofty goals for season’s end.