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Matt Dolan, Alec Portera lead St. John the Baptist to CHSAA volleyball title

Matthew Dolan #15 of St. John the Baptist

Matthew Dolan #15 of St. John the Baptist serves during the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA boys volleyball final against Chaminade at Adelphi University on Monday, May 20, 2019. Baptist won in four sets in claim its first league championship. Credit: James Escher

A perfect season and a chance to rewrite program history were on the line, and St. John the Baptist delivered.

Matt Dolan had 20 assists and seven kills, and Alec Portera recorded 18 kills as No. 1 St. John the Baptist defeated No. 2 Chaminade, 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, to capture the program’s first league title, according to athletic director Ralph Dalton, in the CHSAA volleyball final Monday night at Adelphi.

“This means the world to us,” said Dolan, who was named CHSAA Player of the Year. “To be able to win the first championship and do it without losing a game, it’s crazy.”

After taking the first two sets and dropping the third, the Cougars (14-0) closed out the final set, 25-19, defeating Chaminade, which topped them in the title game two years ago.

“I’ve had great teams,” St. John the Baptist coach Melissa Cantelmo said. “But from the beginning, I knew that this was a special group. They had a good feeling going in and I think that pushed them from day one to work as hard as possible because they knew that they could get to this moment.”

Chaminade (9-4) took a 6-1 lead in the opening set, but St. John the Baptist scored 10 of the final 12 points to complete an emphatic 25-21 comeback win. Tournament MVP Mike Anderson said his team came out edgy knowing what was at stake.

“Definitely some nerves,” said Anderson, who had 25 assists. “But we shook them off.”

After beginning the second set with a 7-0 spurt, St. John the Baptist stretched the lead to 23-14 following a Portera kill, but the Flyers responded with a 6-1 run to cut the deficit to 24-20. Peter Liegey, who also had a strong showing at the net with 15 kills, closed out the set to put the Cougars ahead 2-0.

Trailing 17-12 in the third, the Flyers rallied to win, 25-20, forcing the fourth set before the Cougars sealed the match.

Portera, a senior, said he played lacrosse for 10 years but decided to play volleyball for the school team instead this spring after playing club volleyball last year.

“It’s probably one of the best decisions I ever made in my life,” Portera said.

Dalton described the program’s historic feat.

“To make history for the school by winning the program’s first championship and doing it by being undefeated is pretty special,” Dalton said.

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