Ryan Byrne saved his best for last.
His Eastport-South Manor teammates followed suit, capping a late-season surge with a state championship.
Byrne had 30 kills and nine digs to lead Eastport-South Manor to a four-set win over Spencerport (Rochester) in the Division II boys volleyball state final Saturday afternoon at Suffolk-CCC Brentwood. Tommy Ogeka added 10 kills and nine digs, Parker Bachisin had 44 assists, and Brennen Brandow had seven kills and 15 digs for the Sharks, which won 18-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-22 to capture the first state championship in program history.
“Knowing this was my last game and all the seniors’ last high school game ever, I just wanted the ball so bad,” said Byrne, who was named tournament MVP. “I didn’t want to take an ‘L’ today. It was all or nothing so I just put in every drop of energy I possibly could, and I know my teammates were right there with me.”
“The game plan was ‘set Ryan, set Ryan, set Ryan,’” Bachisin said. “He put the ball away.”
Eastport-South Manor became the third team from Long Island to win a state boys volleyball title, having previously reached the state championship match in 2010, 2011 and 2014.
“I can remember the team that went up to Glens Falls and I remember thinking ‘I want to win a state championship,’” Ogeka said. “I’ve had so many dreams of the championship point and us coming together after. It was everything I hoped it could be and more.”
The Sharks (15-2) came into the day having won 15 consecutive sets, including clinical victories over Hauppauge and Bellmore JFK in the county and Long Island championships, respectively.
“The last two weeks we were on fire,” coach Bruce Stiriz said. “Two days ago we were practicing, and my mouth dropped. We didn’t make any errors at all, they were crushing the ball from every position, balls were flying and they were picking everything up. And I said ‘please bring this kind of effort to the championship.’”
They did just that, sweeping Spencerport and Oswego in pool play to advance to the final. The Sharks dropped their first set against Spencerport in the championship match, but righted the ship in the second, winning 10 of the first 13 points before closing the frame on a 10-4 run.
“After the first set, it really sunk in that we were playing a great team, and we needed to play our absolute best,” Bachisin said.
In the third, Spencerport (20-4) took a 22-20 lead, before Byrne’s hardest-hit kill of the day put the Sharks ahead 23-22, en route to a two-point win in the set. In the fourth, ESM controlled most of the set and took a 24-17 lead. Spencerport fought off five consecutive set points, before Bachisin set up Byrne, who put the ball down to mark the final assist and kill of their respective varsity careers.
“They deserve to go out on top. Every single one of them deserved this win,” junior middle Quinn Foglia said of his senior teammates.
Libero Chris Suarez had 19 digs and Robert Choma had four blocks to round out the Sharks’ championship effort.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” Byrne said. “I know I’m going to remember every single person and all the experiences that we had together. We’re brothers until the end and we proved that today.”