Cassandra Patsos wasn’t happy with the way she played in the Suffolk AA girls volleyball final on Thursday. She won’t complain with how she responded.
The junior middle hitter was the go-to offensive threat for Connetquot, disrupting Massapequa’s defense by hitting crosscourt and swinging while in motion to lead the Thunderbirds over the Chiefs in Saturday night’s Long Island Class AA championship at SUNY-Old Westbury, 25-16, 25-21, 25-20.
“I think in the county final, she started out a little cold and found her fire at the end of that match,” said coach Justin Hertz of Patsos’ performance in the Thunderbirds’ 3-1 win over Smithtown East. “I know she didn’t want to start the match the same way. She knew she was going to be called upon to produce a lot of kills.”
Patsos had a team-high 16 kills as setter Nicole Migliozzi’s primary option. Migliozzi spread the ball around with 41 assists and said Patsos is important to Connetquot’s offensive fluidity.
“She keeps the block stationary on the other side and it helps me open up the block for other hitters too,” Migliozzi said.
And her other hitters reaped the benefits. Connetquot outside hitters Taylor Konzen (11 kills), Taylor Cole (eight) and Mackenzie Taylor (seven) overcame a tall Massapequa block to put constant pressure on the Chiefs’ back line.
Connetquot (20-0) was dominant against a Massapequa (14-1) team which had only dropped a single set all season, back in September against Long Beach.
“Our coaches prepared us very well for this particular match,” said libero Mackenzie Cole, who made nine digs. “We had a game-plan going in, and I think we executed it very well.”
Any qualms about the Thunderbirds from the county final can be put to rest. Smithtown East exploited questionable defense by hitting on the lines and moving Connetquot’s middle block of Patsos and Cory Carrara.
That same strategy wouldn’t have worked for Massapequa, as Cole, Daniella Balsano and other members of the back line were sturdy.
Their reliability sparked an offensive juggernaut against the Chiefs, who scored the first point of the match but never led after 1-0 in the opening game. Star setter and right-side hitter Jamie Smith kept Massapequa in the match, however.
But like the Thunderbirds have done all season, they formulated a plan and executed.
Taylor Cole said the driving force behind their poise is “the passion and the want that all of us have to get it done, to represent our school and ourselves, and to do this for each other.”
Now the Thunderbirds will head to the state semifinals in Glens Falls next weekend after locking up their second straight Long Island championship in three straight appearances.
Connetquot was dominant in last year’s state tournament, dropping just one set and sweeping Pine Bush in the final.
A blend of defense, ball control and hitting makes the Thunderbirds a title contender again, and if you ask Patsos, she’ll say they’re coming into next weekend on a high note.
Said Patsos: “I think that the whole team played its best and all-in-all, this was definitely the best game of the season.”