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Dan Shanley leads Smithtown West to LI Division I boys volleyball championship with victory over Massapequa

Dan Shanley #4 of Smithtown West, left, celebrates

Dan Shanley #4 of Smithtown West, left, celebrates with teammates after making a kill in the Division I boys volleyball Long Island Championship against Massapequa at Longwood High School on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Credit: James Escher

The last time Smithtown West’s boys volleyball program won a Long Island championship in 2016, a seventh grader named Dan Shanley marveled at how his older brother Chris helped lead his team to the state tournament.

It was a feat that inspired the younger Shanley, who aspired to accomplish the same one day.

Finding himself on that stage five years later, Dan became the one to marvel at, as he followed right in his brother’s footsteps.

Shanley, in typical fashion, led the charge for the Bulls throughout the day with 14 kills as they defeated Massapequa in the Long Island Division I championship/Southeast Regional final, 23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-23, at Longwood on Thursday afternoon.

"Playing in eighth grade, I kind of just looked up to this," Shanley said. "My brother won the LIC when I was in seventh grade, so I had that goal since I came into this program. Being here is a great feeling today, to do what I’ve been dreaming about the last four or five years."

Smithtown West (13-4) advances to the state tournament at Albany Capital Center on Nov. 20. The Bulls also won the county title last season but did not receive the opportunity to compete in the Long Island championship or state tournament, as both were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smithtown West coach Michael Legge said his message to the team ahead of Albany will emphasize continuing to keep things simple.

"We’re just going to go have fun," Legge said. "It’s our second time going there since 2015. We’re really looking forward to the opportunity to show that we’re tops in the state."

After falling in a tight first set, Smithtown West closed out the second on a kill from middle Ryan Downing to tie the score at 1 as two straight Massapequa points beforehand nearly forced a win-by-two scenario.

"That first set was kind of a punch in the mouth," said Downing, who had six kills. "We took it, got back out on the court, pushed our energy right back to them and kept grinding from there."

Smithtown West took control in the third by jumping out to a 21-9 advantage before winning 25-15 and pulling to within one game of victory. Back-to-back points from Massapequa (14-2) in the fourth cut the deficit to 24-23, but setter/right side Adam Bender sealed the title with one final kill.

Clinching the same moment that initially inspired Shanley five years ago, as he watched his older brother help lead the program to a Long Island championship victory.

"It’s kind of surreal," Shanley said. "It’s crazy, you set a goal at the beginning of the year, coming in every day working towards it. It’s really awesome to finally achieve that goal. I love my teammates and coaches, I’m happy for everyone and I know they’re happy for us. It’s just a great feeling."

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