Like Halloween decorations going up too early and pumpkin-spice flavoring, razor-thin boys volleyball matches between Plainview JFK and Massapequa are becoming a fall tradition.
Wednesday was the third match in the last four between the teams to go to a fifth-set, but unlike the previous two, Plainview JFK emerged victorious. Led by Daniel Kim’s 12 kills, the Hawks won the battle of unbeaten Nassau A-I teams, 18-25, 26-24, 25-27, 25-20, 26-24.
“Every year it’s a great match,” Kim said. “It’s a great rivalry. You need to stay focused and you just need stamina to get through these five-set games.”
Nick Galasso added nine kills, Max Schulman had eight, and Ethan Klein had 37 assists for Plainview JFK (6-0), which avenged its loss to Massapequa in last season’s county title match.
It did not always seem like this would be the case, as Massapequa (5-1) took the first and third sets and led 20-15 in the fifth. The Hawks responded by winning seven of the next nine points to level the set at 22. The Chiefs fought off match point to tie the set at 24, before Plainview JFK won the final two points to secure the victory.
“Our team fought back because we have a strong mindset,” Kim said. “We build each other up.”
“We just tried to stay relaxed,” Schulman said. “If you’re relaxed, you can just hit the ball as hard you can and that’s what we did.”
“We have a lot of work to do, but they ultimately stuck it out,” Plainview JFK coach Russi Villalta said. “I believe in them.”
Plainview JFK, which had not dropped a set this season before Wednesday’s match, lost its last four matches to Massapequa, including the 2015 county final, in which the two teams were separated by a single point.
“That was a devastating loss, so this is a big one for us,” Klein said.
“They always give us a battle until the last point, and they showed that today,” Justin Kimmel said. “We can never underestimate them.”
The Chiefs, who will host Plainview JFK Oct. 28, were led by the pinpoint passing of Alec Helford (36 assists) and the hitting of Jack Solen and Timothy Drake (17 kills apiece).
“We know we can beat them now and that’s going to help us the next time we play,” Schulman said.
If recent history is any indication, that should be a tight match as well.