Some of the faces may be new, but Sachem North boys volleyball is in a familiar position as the team to beat in Class A.
Sean Hannett and the Flaming Arrows cemented that status with a straight-set victory over visiting Smithtown West in a battle of Suffolk’s top-seeded large schools Wednesday night. Hannett had 10 kills, Connor Pallmann added 13 and Alec Lehnert had nine for Sachem North, which won 25-21, 25-17, 25-22. The two-time reigning Long Island champions have now won 42 consecutive matches against Long island competition, and have not lost a regular season match since 2012.
“I think it was the biggest test we’ve had so far,” coach Matt Rivera said. “With as little experience as we have, it was important for us to come out big and play well in a big game against a really good team.”
Hannett is the only returning starter from last year’s team that reached the state final, and his play down the stretch Wednesday played a pivotal role in locking the match up.
After winning a pair of hard-fought sets, Sachem North (6-0) fell behind 12-3 in the third. Hannett, though, put down a thunderous cross-net kill that ended a 6-0 Bulls run, and set the Arrows up for a run of their own. The hosts won 13 of the next 17 points, and nine of the set’s final 15.
“I wasn’t thinking about the score at all,” Hannett said. “We were just trying to play our game. But I think us killing the ball shifted the momentum and we were able to build on that.”
Lehnert agreed. “Once Sean put that ball down, everyone got amped,” he said. “That was the turning point.”
“The guys were fired up,” Rivera added. “Sean is the heart and soul of what we’re doing out there.”
Rivera also said Lehnert and Pallmann, the focal points of the Arrow’s new power-based offense, helped key the late run. “When you have weapons like that and guys that can score from anywhere,” he said, “you know you’re never out of a game.”
Dan LaRosa added seven digs and sophomore setter Jack Driscoll (31 assists) continued his strong start to the season. “It’s really amazing how far he’s come, from the first match to now,” Hannett said. “He looks like a senior the way he’s been playing.”
Smithtown West (4-1) was led by the duo of Kevin Kelleher (eight kills) and Chris Shanley.
“They’re a really tough team,” Pallmann said. “This is a great win for us.”