As they prepared to embrace the journey of this past season, the Eastport-South Manor boys volleyball team set three primary objectives.
Make it to the finish line without dropping a single set the entire way, finish off the season undefeated and be the last ones standing with the state championship plaque in hand.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, their first ambition slipped away all too quickly. With a 25-21 loss to Sachem North in the third set of the opener on Sep. 2, Eastport’s initial aspiration was already off the board.
It would be the only disappointment they’d encounter from that point forward.
Led by senior outside hitters Jake DesLauriers and Mark Porcelli, the Sharks proceeded to cap an undefeated season on Nov. 20 at Albany Capital Center with a 25-22, 25-22, 25-22 victory over Spencerport (Section V) to win the Division II state championship.
DesLauriers tallied 17 kills, 17 digs and two digs in the program’s first state title-clinching performance since 2016 and second overall. The dynamic playmaker emphatically recorded match point for Eastport (18-0) with his third and final block.
"Jake was ridiculous," Eastport coach Bill Kropp said. "Whenever we needed a big point he would find a way. From the service line, the net, he was just dominant and amazing. He’s a laid-back guy off the court, but on the court he’s just a wonderful leader and he took us to a state championship. It was a team effort, absolutely, we needed everybody. But he just really did amazing things today."
The triumphant moment was the culmination of what Kropp dubbed the "Drive to 25" — 25 consecutive victories to win the grand prize following the team’s county title in the spring.
"It’s just amazing," DesLauriers said. "Drive to 25 is something we’ve been thinking about since before the season. We knew, he knew. We just had a feeling that this was going to be our time and our moment."
And what gave Eastport its rally cry?
"I think going into the season, after winning the county championship last year and not getting to go any further because of COVID," DesLauriers said. "The fact that we were able to win that, we knew that we had the potential to come back again and go even further than we did."
"There was no room for error because we knew what we wanted," Kropp said. "We wanted an undefeated season, we wanted a state championship. When I took these seniors back as sophomores they worked so hard and this is the end of a journey."
Porcelli pointed to a specific match on Oct. 7 that provided the Sharks with the final bit of confidence that their greatest goal would be within reach.
"I think when we played Northport was a determining moment for us," said Porcelli, who contributed 13 kills, 13 digs and one block in the state final. "It was like ‘Oh, we can really do this.’ We just dominated and after that we knew that we could make history."
His eyes welling with tears, Kropp commended his players for accomplishing the ultimate goal they set seven months ago.
"The journey that this team and I took has just been really special," Kropp said. "We never went downhill and just kept climbing."