The groundwork for a rivalry between the South Side and Wantagh volleyball teams was laid decades ago. These girls didn't invent the tradition; they're just the most recent generation to embrace it.
Consider South Side's 26-24, 25-21, 22-25, 25-14 win Tuesday as fuel to the fire.
"It's a long tradition of rivalry,'' South Side coach Cheryl Scalice said. "Two excellent teams, two great programs. It's always a bloodbath when we play each other.''
Wantagh struck first this season on Sept. 22, ousting South Side in four sets. But a month later, something was different. The Cyclones showed it when they rallied to win the first set after trailing 6-0. They showed it when they erased a 7-1 deficit to begin the third set. And how they have grown as a team was on full display in the fourth set, when South Side won the final eight points to clinch the match.
South Side improved to 12-1 in Conference A-I, while Wantagh fell to 9-1.
"We played awful against Wantagh the first time,'' Scalice said. "I can't imagine it wasn't on everyone's mind. It was on my mind because we played almost like we shouldn't have been on the court with them the first time.
"Volleyball is 70 percent mental. You're constantly working on your girls' mental game.''
With mental lapses held in check, South Side overcame an early hole to take the first set, capped by an emphatic kill from Maya Shabbir.
After Wantagh cut South Side's lead to 23-21 in the second set, Ashley DeTullio had two straight kills to ensure the Cyclones took a 2-0 lead in the match. Wantagh took the third, only to have South Side respond with its impressive run to end the match.
"For the third set, I think we got a little complacent. We were like, 'We won two, this one's coming for us.' Sometimes that happens,'' Shabbir said. "But we can always push, even if we dig a hole for ourselves. We're very resilient.''
Shabbir finished with 16 kills, and DeTullio had 21 digs, nine kills and six aces. Megan Johnke chipped in with 19 digs, and Sydney Gabriel had 34 assists and four aces for South Side.
"South Side played great,'' Wantagh coach Katie McKeefrey said. "They were all over everything. They defended everything. Their offense was great and we just weren't there today.''