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Smithtown West, ESM in state volleyball tournament finals Saturday

Smithtown West team captains Thomas Bernard, left, and

Smithtown West team captains Thomas Bernard, left, and Jake Torres, right, accept the championship plaque following their victory over Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK in the Long Island Championship Class A finals at Suffolk County Community College on Nov. 12, 2016. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Long Island teams have had a good run of success at the state boys volleyball championships, and Smithtown West and Eastport-South Manor seem poised to keep this going.

A team from Long Island has made the state final in both Class A and Class B in each year since the tournament’s inception in 2010. Eastport-South Manor previously made the final in 2010, 2011, and 2014, while Smithtown West will make its tournament debut.

The tournament begins for both teams at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Suffolk-CCC Brentwood.

In both classifications, a new champion will be crowned, as McQuaid (the reigning Class A champion) and Victor (the reigning Class B champ) both missed the tournament. The two schools from the Rochester area have eight state titles between them, while all six teams in play Saturday will be seeking a first championship.

Smithtown West will be joined in the Class A field by Cicero-North Syracuse, which was eliminated in pool play of last year’s tournament, and fellow tournament debutant Penfield, which eliminated McQuaid earlier in the postseason. The Bulls will look to be Long Island’s second large school to win the state title, after Sachem North took home the crown in 2014.

Smithtown West (14-2) already made history this season, winning the program’s first county and Long Island championships. In the county final, the Bulls upset Sachem North in three sets, handing the Flaming Arrows their first loss to a Long Island school since 2013. Chris Shanley led the way for the Smithtown West with 15 kills, and he had 20 more in the Bulls’ four-set Long Island championship win over Plainview JFK.

Shanley leads a dynamic offense and is joined by fellow outside hitter Kevin Kelleher (16 kills in the Long Island championship) and Tom Keller in the middle. Setter Thomas Bernard pulls the strings for the offense, while libero Jake Torres has had a strong postseason leading the defense.

In Class B, Eastport-South Manor (14-2) will contend with Oswego, which was eliminated in pool play at each of the last two tournaments, and Spencerport (Rochester). The Sharks will seek to be Long Island’s second Class B champion (Bellmore JFK was the first when it won the Class B championship in 2012).

Ryan Byrne has been one of the top players in the county all season, and the outside hitter has elevated his play in the playoffs, where the Sharks edged both Hauppauge and Bellmore JFK in the three-sets to win the county and Long Island championships, respectively. Byrne had 14 kills and 14 digs to lead the Sharks over Hauppauge and had 11 more against Bellmore JFK.

Tommy Ogeka has provided strong all-around play at the other outside spot, as has Brennen Brandow (24 kills over the last two games).

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