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Connetquot danced its way to another state girls volleyball title

Julia Patsos and Connetquot teammates celebrate their state

Julia Patsos and Connetquot teammates celebrate their state championship after defeating Baldwinsville 25-12, 25-18, 15-16 in the Class AA girls volleyball final at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, N.Y. on Nov. 24, 2019. Credit: James Escher

There already was music playing at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls when the Connetquot girls volleyball team rolled out its own portable speaker.

As far as the Thunderbirds were concerned, a state championship deserved a specific type of playlist and they came prepared. Connetquot started playing its own music, beginning with Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky,” circling up on the court, and while Baldwinsville warmed up, the Thunderbirds started to dance.

It’s a long-standing Connetquot tradition, one the team has come to relish as players get a chance to loosen up before matches. That included the state Class AA final as the Thunderbirds captured their third title since 2015 with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-16) victory over Baldwinsville on Nov. 24.

“It’s pretty much our label, our brand, our signature thing,” senior outside hitter Kiarra Roth said. “If we didn’t do it, I don’t think we’d play how we have. It’s a superstition for us now.”

Connetquot’s light-on-its-feet mentality began around the 2015 season, coach Justin Hertz said. He wasn’t originally a fan of the movement, literal or otherwise, saying he worried it looked like the Thunderbirds “were unfocused.”

That didn’t last long.

Hertz, much like his players, came around on the idea and credited the pre-match dance session for helping Connetquot find its rhythm before the first serve this season.

“By the end of the [2015 season] I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is our super power,' ” Hertz said. “They’ve kept it every year and morphed it into different versions.”

This fall, Connetquot’s playlist also included "Buff Baby" by Tobi Lou, "Cotton Eye Joe" by Rednex and The Sugarhill Gang’s "Apache (Jump On It)", songs that all have well-known dances. The Thunderbirds carved out practice time throughout the year, particularly during their regularly scheduled pasta parties, to learn the steps. Players came up with their own moves for "It’s Tricky."

“We made up that dance and learned the whole thing,” senior libero Julia Patsos said. “We have some people that really like dancing on our team, so they’ll start yelling out certain moves and we try to do them.”

While Patsos said the original dance was her favorite this year, Roth admitted she liked "Apache" because “it’s very simple and it’s easier for me to follow. I have two left feet.” Still, she added that the dances helped erase any sense of nervous energy amongst the team because, if they can dance together, then they can play together.

“I think it ups our comfort together,” Roth said. “When it comes to the game, if someone makes a bad move or messes up, we’re not going to feel embarrassed. We work well together.”

The Thunderbirds proved that cohesion all year, boasting depth and strong play at the net, with Hertz calling Connetquot’s ball control “at the top of its game this season.” It only got better at the state tournament, bolstered by the music, as the Thunderbirds dropped just one set in two days of pool play and championship competition.

“We all brought our 'A' game,” Patsos said. “It was great to see every single person play their best there.”

THUNDERBIRDS' ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Suffolk playoffs

Patchogue Medford, 3-0

Commack, 3-2

Suffolk championship

Smithtown West, 3-0

Long Island championship

Massapequa, 3-0

State tournament

Mercy, 2-0

Ossining, 2-0

Baldwinsville, 1-1

State championship

Baldwinsville, 3-0

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