Many teams reference puzzles when considering how each individual player fits into the grander plan, but the East Rockaway girls volleyball team has used the metaphor in a slightly different fashion.
When the Rocks struggled early this season, they focused on a different word or phrase every day, allowing them to put everything together come playoffs.
Led by Melissa Loyer’s 12 kills and Joanna Acampora’s 20 assists, top-seeded East Rockaway added to its success by defeating No. 2 Carle Place, 25-15, 25-21, 25-19, capturing the Nassau Class C title at SUNY Old Westbury on Wednesday night.
East Rockaway plays Pierson/Bridgehampton for the Long Island Class C crown at 11 a.m. Saturday at SCCC–Brentwood.
“We struggled in the beginning with team chemistry, so we started focusing on one piece of the puzzle at a time,” coach Ksenia Brito said. “There are words and phrases that we just focused on for a day and we kept adding and adding.”
The puzzle, which served as a motivational poster on the back wall of the gymnasium, includes sentiments like “triumph,” “respect” and “shake it off.” Some are recommended by the players, others are goals of Brito’s.
Recently, “battle” has been the word of choice for East Rockaway (8-8).
“We have a new word every day, so that’s pretty much our focus,” Acampora said. “It’s been ‘battle,’ the last few days because we really try to battle. That word means a lot to us.”
Carle Place (3-12) tested the Rocks in the second set, leading 18-17 before Brito called a timeout. The Rocks rattled off the next four points for a 21-18 lead.
“We always bring it together on the court,” Loyer said. “I try to pick up the team when we’re down.”
Loyer is a major piece of the championship puzzle, and it was her highflying kills that sparked East Rockaway at its down points, which were few and far between.