When Smithtown West faced Sachem North during the regular season, middle blocker David DeRosa admitted, “There were some fears.” Wednesday night, the Bulls turned those fears to tears — of absolute joy.
No. 2 Smithtown West stunned two-time defending Long Island Champion No. 1 Sachem North, 3-0, in the Suffolk Class A boys volleyball championship played before a large roaring crowd at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood. It was not only the first county crown for the Smithtown West program, but the victory also ended the Flaming Arrows’ 52-match winning streak against Long Island schools.
“It’s amazing! That’s why I’m fighting back the tears,” said outside hitter Chris Shanley, who led the Bulls (13-2) with 15 kills. “We knew we had to play with a chip on our shoulders. The first set was close, but after we won that, we knew we could hang with them and it boosted our confidence.”
Smithtown West outlasted the Flaming Arrows (15-1), 28-26 in the first set, and wasn’t seriously threatened in winning the next two, 25-19 and 25-17. “I’m speechless,” said libero Jake Torres, who made nine digs. “We knew that they’re always on top. They’re a great team. But we were confident and we just played better than we did the last time.”
Smithtown West coach Mike Legge recalled that first meeting on Sept. 21, when the Flaming Arrows won in straight sets. “We were not mentally prepared, but it’s a process and the road we took to get here makes this very rewarding. We knew we couldn’t give Sachem North an inch. They’ve won 52 in a row. We wanted it to be like this, playing them for the county championship. We wanted to be the best by beating the best.”
The Bulls did it by fighting off back-to-back set points in the first set and then winning it on a block by Thomas Keller, who had nine kills. “After that first set, we were able to take big leads and we controlled it,” Torres said.
Smithtown West built 17-11 leads in each of the next two sets and with many of the Sachem North fans expecting one of their team’s patented streaks, shut the door with some expert defense and down-the-line kills.
DeRosa was part of that defensive wall with five blocks to go along with four kills. “It seemed like every one of them came at a big time,” Legge said.
DeRosa admitted he was surprised by the one-sided outcome. “Coming in, I thought it would go five [games]. I thought for sure they would go on a run,” he said. “The first time we played them, we had some nerves. This time, we had the desire. Winning that first game gave us an adrenaline rush.”
A rush that didn’t stop until a historic championship was clinched.