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Long Beach volleyball team ends perfect season with state Class AA title

Fittingly, Grace Rosenberg served the last point after some struggles in a year bracketed by the team's mantra: "Why not us?"

Long Beach defeated Victor, 25-23, 26-24, 25-22, to win the Class AA girls volleyball state championship on Sunday at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. Grace Rosenberg had the final point on an ace. (Credit: Newsday / Owen O’Brien)

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Call it poetic justice.

Grace Rosenberg didn’t serve her best in pool play. The booming jump-server seemingly hit more nets than hardwood, but the Long Beach girls volleyball team advanced to the state Class AA final anyway.

So, when Rosenberg toed the service line staring down a Victor defense hoping to stave off match point on Sunday at Cool Insuring Arena, she overcame her struggles and delivered a history-making ace.

The senior’s serve landed just inside the baseline, and she and her Long Beach teammates immediately celebrated the first state Class AA championship in program history, a 25-23, 26-24, 25-22 straight sets win.

“Baseline,” coach Kerri Rehnback said emphatically. “Poetic justice. That’s really what it was.”

“The fact that it was 24 on me, I wanted that so bad because my serve has been so rewarding the whole year, and I wanted the last serve to be the best one,” said Rosenberg, who was named to the all-tournament team along with libero Kathleen Verastegui.

Outside hitter Emma McGovern earned most valuable player honors after a blistering performance. She recorded 46 kills in pool play and another 30 kills in the championship, operating as the go-to hitter.

“For the rest of my life, I’m going to remember this,” said McGovern as she clutched the championship and MVP plaques tight to her body. “This has been the best weekend of my life.”

Long Beach (18-0) held a dominant 21-13 lead over Victor (20-1) in the first set before the Blue Devils cut the deficit to 22-21. McGovern hammered down the last kill on a bump-set from Verastegui for a 1-0 lead.

A 20-16 deficit in the second set didn’t keep the Marines down. They scored 10 of the last 14 points with McGovern again delivering the finishing blow. Julia Meyers, Maggie Swegler, Tori Price, Marlené Kramer, Lexie Correia and Anna Moller all picked up the slack along the way.

Another deficit late in the third set proved nothing but a small obstacle. Trailing 19-17, Long Beach ripped off three straight points for a 20-19 lead. The Marines didn’t trail again.

“There’s nothing a team can do that we’re not prepared for or can’t handle,” Verastegui said.

Each year, Rehnback picks a slogan for her teams to rally behind. This year, it was ‘Why not us?’ She said the players rallied behind the mantra like none of the others that came before it.

“There was just always a roadblock for us,” said Rehnback, recognizing the traditionally great Massapequa and Connetquot programs. “I just knew we had such a great team, and I thought to myself, ‘Why not? Why can’t it be us?’ ”

The athletes embraced it. They made up shirts, used it as a Twitter hashtag and screamed it in huddles. It brought them together.

So, why not Rosenberg in that match-clinching point?

A few early mishaps at the service line couldn’t keep her down.

“The only thing I was thinking was aim deep and it’ll drop and it’ll go in,” Rosenberg said.

It was sweet retribution. And sweet victory.

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