When the final hit of the day landed out of bounds Saturday afternoon, a dream became a reality.
Chris Shanley had 20 kills, Kevin Kelleher had 16 kills and Tom Bernard had 42 assists to lead Smithtown West to a four-set win over Plainview JFK in the Class A Long Island Championship at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood. Jake Torres had 17 digs and Tom Keller had five kills and four blocks for the Bulls, which won 25-18, 25-23, 24-26, 26-24 to capture the program’s first Long Island Championship.
They will return to Suffolk CCC-Brentwood on Saturday to make their state tournament debut.
“When the ball went out, I thought ‘this is actually happening,’” Shanley said. “I went to hug the first person I could find. We came out here, we fought and we won it. I have no words to describe this feeling. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”
“All the practices, all the open gyms and times in the weight rooms popped in my mind when that ball went out,” Kelleher said. “It’s been an amazing ride. This is the best group of guys.”
Smithtown West (14-2) became the fourth consecutive team from Suffolk to win the Class A Long Island Championship, doing so thanks to a disciplined defense that transitioned into a well-balanced attack.
“Usually our defense carries us and that opens things up for the offense,” coach Mike Legge said.
With the defense keeping Plainview JFK (16-2) in check, Bernard was able to pick out his targets in the middle and on the outside. “My hitters all hit the ball well,” he said. “I know I have so many reliable hitters and they’ll get the job done whenever they need to.”
After Smithtown West won the first two sets, Plainview fought back in a close third, and a Daniel Kim kill clinched it to keep Plainview in the match.
In the fourth, the Bulls led 9-3 and 18-10, before an 8-1 run from Plainview JFK (16-2) cut the lead to one. Smithtown West took a 24-22 lead, and while the Hawks fought off a pair of match points, the Bulls won the final two points to secure the title, thanks in part to some angry play from Keller in the middle.
“It was like waking a sleeping dragon,” Legge said of Keller. “When he gets mad and he plays mad, he brings it and got some big blocks and kills at the end.”
“I try playing my hardest no matter what, but when I get angry, that little extra can put me over the edge,” Keller said. “I wanted it and that’s it.”
By the end of the set, that anger turned to elation.
Said Shanley: “This is the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had.”