It was exactly the type of day Matthew "Dezy" DiStefano would have reveled in.
Smithtown West hosted three non-league girls volleyball games Monday, showcasing six of the top programs in Suffolk County. The event, set up by Smithtown West coaches Deron Brown and Ashley Marchese, served as a fundraiser for the DezyStrong Foundation, established in 2019 to honor the memory of DiStefano, who died of kidney cancer in January 2020.
DiStefano was a longtime volleyball coach at Sachem North.
“He was all about appreciating every moment of every day, being the best ‘you’ you can be and working as hard as you can,” Sayville coach Debra Urso said. “These teams out here today, these are teams that give it their all every time they are out on the court and it would make him proud.”
Sayville defeated Kings Park, 25-8, 25-11, 25-23, in the first game of the tripleheader. It was also a rematch of last season’s Suffolk Class A final, which Sayville lost in five sets last fall.
Many of the players and coaches wore special DezyStrong shirts during warmups, which features #WeGetTo, a mantra DiStefano preached.
“The whole game we just kept in it our brain that we get to be here, we get to play the sport we love,” said Sayville’s Morgan Reese, who had 21 kills, seven aces and six digs. “And it was a really great day.”
“I think it’s really cool because of the message,” added Lily Coan, who had 29 assists and five digs for Sayville. “It’s that we get to play volleyball so I think it’s important to spread that around the community that we get to play the sport that we love.”
Sayville improved to 15-0 and Kings Park fell to 8-5. Their paths could cross again before a champion is crowned and Sayville never forgot the feeling of walking off the court with a loss last season.
“We had the mentality of, ‘This is not going to happen again,’” Reese said. “We were going to play as hard as we possibly can and that’s what we did.”
Hauppauge (13-3) defeated Bayport-Blue Point, 23-25, 25-17, 29-27, 25-17, in the day’s second matchup. The long third set, especially, featured the fight showed by DiStefano both on and off the court. Bayport-Blue Point fell to 8-2.
“Especially because we were playing in the Dezy game, we really wanted to win and show support,” said Alison Tsororos, who had the final kill for Hauppauge in the third set. “We were really hyped for this game.”
Hauppauge coach Eric Ericksen said it was the exact style of play DiStefano with which loved to be associated.
“We’re with all these competitive people, that’s what Dezy was,” Ericksen said. “He was one of the most competitive [people] and would love seeing stuff like this.
“It’s just good to be a part of this – playing for a great reason and a great cause,” Ericksen added. “The girls love doing stuff like that, playing for a purpose and the quality here is phenomenal. All these teams are going to be deep in the playoffs, they are going to be there at the end.”
Smithtown West defeated Ward Melville, 25-18, 25-16, 25-20, in the afternoon’s final contest. Erica Arroyo had 11 kills, 12 assists, six digs and five blocks and Kira Pirrera added 10 kills, six aces and four blocks for Smithtown West (12-0). Ward Melville fell to 10-2.
“We always say, ‘We get to and we are here to play and we get to play,’ so we definitely want to show up,” Arroyo said. “And we all want to show it on the court for the foundation.”
“Even if we’re just helping one family, at least we are doing something,” Brown said. “And to get those other programs here, very, very rich in tradition, it’s great to have that support from the other teams as well.”