Emily Clemens faced an incredible challenge for Lindenhurst girls volleyball this season, and was able to lead her team deep into the Suffolk playoffs and excel individually.
Clemens, a natural setter, changed positions to play outside hitter for an inexperienced Lindenhurst team this season, yet still led the Bulldogs to a League II title with a 15-3 record and an appearance in the Class AA county championship match. At season's end, Clemens was named a first-team All-American -- the first player from New York to ever earn such an honor.
A well-deserving recipient of Newsday's Long Island Player of the Year.
"I've been working for so long in volleyball and when I got named an All-American I was shocked but really happy, and I realized that all my hard work paid off," Clemens said. "I knew we'd make it to the county finals because I had faith in my team and myself, and even though we fell short I felt we had a good season."
Lindenhurst featured two Newsday All-Long Island players this season, between Clemens and senior outside hitter Rachel Ramirez, but the rest of its roster was inexperienced with those two being the only returning starters.
Lindenhurst coach Kellie Block asked Clemens to hit on the outside full-time before the team's first match this season, once she felt comfortable with backup setter Leanne Casella stepping into a starting role.
"I needed someone who could hit, serve-receive and play defense because we lost a couple kids last year and [Clemens] is a complete all-around player," Block said. "She adjusted like she always does. She's just that type of kid."
Said Clemens: "I wanted to do whatever I had to do to make this season successful, so if it meant hitting and not setting to better our team, that's what I wanted to do."
Lindenhurst lost in the county championship to Ward Melville in a thrilling five-game match that came down to the final points. After the teams split the first two games, the fifth was tied at 23 until Ward Melville broke through with the next two points to win it, 25-16, 23-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-23.
Clemens, a five-year varsity player, competed in the Under Armour All-American Volleyball Match and Skills Competition in Louisville as a setter, and was the only first-team All-American still uncommitted to a college.
"Back when I first started playing varsity, I didn't think I'd come this far," Clemens said. "It just goes to show if you really want something and enjoy the sport you play, you can do anything."