Facing an opponent that hadn’t dropped a set the entire season, the Connetquot girls volleyball team knew they’d need to make an early statement.
Once they did, they never looked back.
“The preparation that we put into this whole week to play now, and the work that we put into today, it’s just mind-blowing how much you can put into something and how much can come out of it,” said Katherine Hickey, who had eight kills as Connetquot defeated Massapequa, 27-25, 25-15, 25-18, in the Long Island Class AA championship at Hauppauge on Saturday.
Connetquot (19-1) advances to the New York State tournament semifinals at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls on Nov. 23.
Connetquot made a loud statement in the early going, taking a tightly-contested first set, 27-25, and handing Massapequa its first set loss of the season. Jackie Stapleton’s kill for Massapequa evened the score at 25, but Connetquot responded with a kill from Kiarra Roth and a block on the following point to claim the first game.
“To work hard and be that close and win that set, we just felt like we could do it,” Hickey said. “We felt it.”
“We were ready,” said outside hitter Roth, who added seven kills in the title-clincher. “We came here and knew what we had to do today, and we conquered.”
Connetquot will now look to make a run at its second state title in three seasons. The Thunderbirds won the Class AA state title in 2017 after completing a 19-0 campaign.
Four unanswered points put Connetquot ahead, 20-14, in the final set and put the Thunderbirds within striking distance of the Long Island crown. Massapequa (17-1) scored back-to-back points later in the set to cut the deficit to 23-18, but Connetquot responded with two of their own to punch their ticket upstate.
“I’m just so proud of these girls,” Connetquot coach Justin Hertz said. “They really worked hard and came together, especially toward the second half of the season. And it feels great.”
The Thunderbirds applied constant pressure throughout the second set as they jumped out to a 6-1 lead that they would extend to 18-9 following back-to-back kills by Hickey. Gabriella Carere gave Connetquot a commanding 2-0 advantage with a kill that sealed a 25-15 set victory.
Hertz said his front line performed with “guts of steel, going up there and swinging like that.”
Roth discussed the keys to success for Connetquot as they prepare to head upstate.
“Never take anyone lightly,” Roth said. “Go hard on every point and stay together.”
“We’re gonna be as prepared as we can possibly be,” Hertz said. “Our goal is to go and win a state title and bring it back to Long Island.”