The state’s smallest large school hung tough in its quest for the state’s biggest Saturday afternoon, but Eastport-South Manor fell short in the semifinals of the boys state volleyball tournament at Suffolk County Community College-Brentwood.
The Sharks were eliminated in Division I round-robin play, winning one of the four sets in round-robin play. Last year, the team competed in Division II and won the small-school state crown.
Penfield, the eventual champion, swept Eastport-South Manor in the opening two sets, 25-22, 25-14, Saturday. The Sharks split their final two frames against Shenendehowa, 18-25, 25-13, and missed out on the final. Penfield went 3-1 in the opening round and Shenendehowa went 2-2.
“I’m still the proudest anyone could be,” coach Bruce Stiriz said. “We’ve done something our school has never done before. To be a ‘large-school’ by one person and to achieve what they achieved is phenomenal.”
The state cut-off between large and small schools is 950 students and Eastport-South Manor’s enrollment is 951. The Sharks had reached the Division II state final four times and previously played as a large school in 2015. They reached the Suffolk county final that season, before losing to powerhouse Sachem North.
“We came out flat today and we just wanted a second chance to do something about it. It was hard watching and realizing things were out of our hands,” Stiriz said.
Saturday also marked the final match for the team’s senior core, which included Tommy Ogeka, Brennen Brandow, Quinn Foglia and Collin Nikc.
Ogeka had been a key player for the Sharks since 2014, when he was an all-tournament performer for the Sharks in that season’s Division II state tournament. Brandow and Foglia were major contributors to last year’s state title team and Nikc was the team’s playmaker this season, his first as a starter.
Stiriz said that his senior leaders “proved who they were” by continuing to play hard through their final set, even when elimination was looming.
“Their character is indisputable,” Stiriz said. “Whenever our backs were against the wall, we would do our best to come back. And they proved that over and over again.”