With a match-extending win in the third game of Sunday's Long Island Class AA volleyball final, Connetquot had made a statement. This band of youngsters, led by the "Fresh Five," was mentally tougher than their grade levels suggested.
For Massapequa to get the edge in the fourth game and to ultimately win, 25-17, 25-16, 20-25, 25-22, it had to take advantage of its maturity.
"We were in this position last year," senior Alexandra Dillon said. "We just needed to regroup and calm down."
They did just that.
Down the stretch, the Chiefs (15-0), who carry 10 upperclassmen to six underclassmen, flaunted their experience. A season removed from advancing to states, Massapequa is comprised of a roster of girls who know how to fight back.
"Most of our starters are returners from last year, so that definitely helps," senior Jamie Schlesinger said. "We have great chemistry and know each other's tendencies."
Massapequa will compete in the state tournament, starting Saturday in upstate Glens Falls.
After an ace by Emilie Marzano clinched the first set and back-to-back kills by Jamie Smith and Schlesinger won Massapequa the second set, the Chiefs seemed poised to cruise.
But in third game, Connetquot freshman Cassandra Patsos played with the gritty determination of a senior. True to the form of a veteran leader, freshman Mackenzie Taylor led by example. "For freshmen, they're so mentally tough," Massapequa coach CarolAnn Habeeb-Kiel said. "They're going to be outstanding."
With Massapequa trailing early in the fourth game, it regained its composure. "We just looked at each other and were like, 'We want this,' " Dillon said. "We just need to calm down and go get it."
Dillon had kills on two of the team's last three points, stopping a rally by Connetquot (19-2).
"We know how to finish a game," Habeeb-Kiel said. "That's what we trained for all season long. We put our foot on the gas and just keep going."
Schlesinger had 25 assists, 16 digs and five kills. Mikayla Porr added 18 digs, Kole Pollock had 10 blocks and Dillon had 12 kills. Jamie Smith had 13 kills and 12 digs.
"We knew that Connetquot was a very hard-working team," Schlesinger said. "So we stepped up and finished. We had to want it more."