The Eastport-South Manor Sharks treat the volleyball court like “sacred ground,” and Saturday afternoon, they kept it clean.
Ryan Byrne had 11 kills, Brennen Brandow had eight kills and 12 digs, and Tommy Ogeka added eight kills and four blocks to lead Eastport-South Manor to a three-set win over Bellmore JFK in the Class B Long Island Championship at Suffolk-CCC Brentwood. Parker Bachisin added 30 assists, Robert Choma had four kills and four blocks, and Quinn Foglia had three kills and three blocks for the Sharks, which won 25-15, 25-18, 26-24.
Eastport-South Manor advances to the state tournament, which will be held at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood on Saturday.
“That was our mindset, don’t let anything touch the floor,” Brandow said. “For the outsides, for the liberos, everyone, it’s our mindset. Coach puts that in our head all the time. It’s sacred ground.”
“Coming into the year, our main goal was to play controlled, play consistent, and limit our errors and I think we did a pretty good job of that,” Byrne added.
Eastport-South Manor (15-2) controlled most of the match, starting it on a 7-2 run. Bellmore JFK (15-6) cut its deficit to 14-11, before the Sharks closed the set on an 11-4 run.
The second set followed a similar pattern, as the Sharks won seven of the first nine points before a Cougars run cut the lead to 17-15, which was followed by an 8-3 ESM run that closed out the set.
“The passing really brought us here,” Brandow said. “Without the passing, we couldn’t get the hits. And the setter did a great job adjusting to our passes.”
The Cougars, who boasted a strong offense led by setter Josh Levine and hitters Owen Bradley and Tyler Anderson, responded well in the third, taking 10-5 lead and after falling behind 17-12, they went back ahead 24-23.
“They have a lot of good hitters that can put the ball away,” Ogeka said.
Eastport-South Manor fought off set point and won the match’s final three points, bringing them back to the state tournament for the first time since 2014, when they reached the final.
Said Ogeka: “We’re trying to make school history.”