When the Lindenhurst boys volleyball team has everything working, it’s capable of holding court with any of Suffolk’s powerhouses.
After Tuesday night’s sweep of defending Long Island Class A champion Smithtown West, perhaps it’s time the Bulldogs are considered one of those powerhouses, too.
Coach Stacie Wixted said before the season that the Bulldogs can compete with anyone if they play error-free. They proved that against the Bulls, winning 25-20, 28-26, 26-24, in a tightly contested Suffolk I match.
“They’re the county champs; I just think we had so much passion on the court,” said senior Jason Koehler, who had 15 kills and 15 digs. “I still can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable.”
Koehler headlined a fundamentally sound approach, one focused on accurate passing and swinging. Koehler sent shockwaves through the Lindenhurst gymnasium when he swung, sparking excited cheers from a home crowd that included members of the Bulldogs’ football team.
The crowd was boisterous when the sides traded leads early in the first set before Lindenhurst took over for good at 15-14. Stellar play from Dean Pereira (21 assists, nine digs) helped seal it.
Pereira provided one of the match’s many highlights with his team clinging to a 16-15 lead in the second set.
After the initial pass bounced awkwardly off a teammate, Pereira stuck out his left foot and kept the ball alive for Lindenhurst (3-1). The Bulldogs capitalized on the good fortune and took a 17-15 lead.
“Yeah, that was crazy,” Pereira said. “It was just a reaction, honestly.”
“The momentum right when we got that point, the momentum shifted,” said setter Vinny Sottile.
The point proved crucial, as Lindenhurst’s 23-20 lead evaporated when Smithtown West rallied and tied the set at 23. The teams traded points until Koehler’s kill gave the Bulldogs a 27-26 lead. A Smithtown West hitting error clinched the set.
Sottile, who had 20 assists, nine digs and five kills, was excellent throughout, but he excelled at the end of the third set when Pereira went to the bench with what he said was a right knee injury. Sottile’s consistent passing put Lindenhurst in opportunities to hit, and the Bulldogs capitalized to outgun a stellar team in Smithtown West (2-1).
Troy VonHolt chipped in 10 kills and a block and said the win “was huge for us.” Dom Pikura had three blocks, and Chris Madlon added nine digs. As a team, Lindenhurst made just five service errors.
The Bulls never wavered, even when trailing. Chris Shanley had 10 kills and two aces, and David DeRosa’s spark-plug performance produced nine kills.
But their play wasn’t enough for the jubilant Bulldogs.
Perhaps Sottile said it best: “There’s really nothing better than defeating a defending county champ.”