Marlené Kramer couldn’t believe what was about to happen.
“I was on the sideline with my friends, and I shed tears right before the last point was even played,” Kramer, a senior on the Long Beach girls volleyball team, said. “I was like, ‘This is it.’ I couldn’t play last year, and I loved every minute of this season.”
Kramer, who was subbed out just a few points prior, watched as Grace Rosenberg’s ace sneaked inside the baseline and clinched Long Beach’s first state championship in program history, a 3-0 win over Class AA foe Victor.
Having undergone shoulder surgery as a junior, Kramer was unable to play during her team’s county championship run last season.
“I loved watching my team play, but it was hard to watch,” Kramer said. “County champs, and I’m just sitting there.”
She didn’t sit around and watch this time around. Kramer was a key member of the rotation in support of stars Kathleen Verastegui, Emma McGovern and Rosenberg. While the latter three served as an extension of the coaching staff, according to coach Kerri Rehnback, Kramer filled a different — yet equally as valuable — leadership role.
After noticing that certain underclassmen appeared nervous at practice, Kramer helped ease their minds and taught them to move on after making silly mistakes.
“I remember what that was like when I was on the team as a 10th grader and I didn’t know how to speak in front of the seniors,” she said. “I tried to give them that voice that I didn’t have.”
Rehnback spoke all season about her senior class, which could be part of the reason Long Beach is poised for sustained success. The Marines will move down to Class A next year and compete in the super-competitive Nassau A-I, but junior Maggie Swegler is confident their leadership will live on.
“I just hope that I can be the leader that the seniors were this year and be able to help out as much as they did and lead the team in a good direction,” Swegler, another key starter, said. “They really taught me that if you see someone doing something wrong, you have to help correct them.”
Four other seniors — Fiona Eramo, Charlotte Kile, Lexie Correia and Riley Sharpe — helped set an example for a group that received contributions from freshman Anna Moller and sophomore Tori Price, among other underclassmen.
Long Beach (18-0) was nearly flawless, dropping two sets to Commack in the Long Island Class AA championship and then dropping just one set to Victor in the state tournament’s pool play.
Kramer and Swegler both said taking a 2-0 lead against Commack before fighting for a five-set win helped the team prepare for the rigors of the state tournament.
Rigors that didn’t prove too rigorous in the end.
Kramer never could have predicted her impact on this accomplishment. She said she still earns congratulatory comments walking down the hallway even two weeks later.
“It’s absolutely breathtaking, honestly,” she said. “I want to say surreal, but in a way, it’s not. We worked for it and earned it and worked so well together.”
road to the championship
Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK, 3-0
LONG ISLAND CHAMPIONSHIP
Pine Bush, 2-0