When the Connetquot girls volleyball team faces adversity, it rises to the challenge.
Trailing for the first time all season against No. 2 Smithtown East in the Suffolk AA final Thursday night at Suffolk CC–Brentwood, the top-seeded Thunderbirds rallied together.
After adjusting the defense to combat the powerful right arm of Haley Anderson, Connetquot strung together wins in three straight to earn a 18-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-18 victory to win its third consecutive county title.
The Thunderbirds face Massapequa at 5 p.m. Saturday at SUNY-Old Westbury in the Long Island Class AA Championship.
“We knew that we could rise up,” said outside hitter Taylor Konzen, who had 13 kills. “That’s our team motto. We just all worked together as a team because we didn’t work together in the first set.”
“Rise” is more than just a team motto. Each player has RISE written on her right wrist as a reminder that there’s no goal they can’t accomplish.
“In the middle of the season we had a bit of a rough patch, so coach had us come together and pick one word that we’d all focus on for the rest of our journey through playoffs,” said libero Mackenzie Cole, who made 20 digs. “Rise means to come up, play to our potential, and that’s what we’re doing so far.”
The Bulls took the first set in large part due to the play of setter Brooke Berroyer, who successfully averted Connetquot’s middle blockers and fed Anderson on the outside. With no one in Anderson’s way at the net, the senior bound for Quinnipiac was able to pick apart Connetquot’s defense.
Connetquot coach Justin Hertz made the necessary adjustments after the first, having his defenders guard the lines to negate easy points. Daniella Balsano (11 digs) and Nicole Migliozzi (10 digs, 42 assists) assisted Cole on the back line.
“We were getting killed on the line, our defenders weren’t there, and the defense we were running just wasn’t working,” Cole said. “We adjusted our defense and our blockers stayed disciplined, and in the end that helped us.”
They rose to the occasion.