Tomorrow, I make the long trek to Syracuse (namely, Cicero-North Syracuse HS) to cover the Boys State Tournament. Saturday's one-day extravaganza will be the first time LI teams have participated at States in some three decades. After the early-season controversy over whether the Nassau boys should move from the spring (thus allowing a regional playoff/state qualifier to happen), it looks like all is well in the world of LI Boys volleyball. Undefeated Half Hollow Hills represents Division I, while Eastport-South Manor competes in Division II.
Then, on Sunday morning, I make the eastbound trip from Syracuse to Glens Falls to cover the girls finals, if any Long Island team makes it that far. Glenn, who won the tourney in '07, seems like the best bet to make it to Sunday. Don't count out Lindenhurst in Class AA, who surprised more than a few people by toppling Ward Melville the Suffolk finals, then taking down 11-time Nassau champs Massapequa at Long Island's. Wantagh, undefeated in Class A, might also be a force to be reckoned with. Mattituck will compete in Class C, while Shelter Island goes at it in Class D.
Before I get to the boys competition..... PROMO ALERT! Be sure to check out this blog and newsday.com all day Saturday for updates, detailed articles on both teams Saturday night and in Sunday's paper and.... well, that's about it, but rest assured, you will be inundated with as much coverage as you can handle. Plus, I will keeping tabs on how the girls fare in Glens Falls.
On to the boys tourney.
Half Hollow Hills enters States on a remarkable run of success. The three-time Suffolk champs have defeated a litany of quality of teams and have yet to be extended five games. In League play, they downed Commack and Lindenhurst twice apiece. In non-league, they swept Eastport in three tough games. In the Suffolk playoffs, they took care of Smithtown West, Northport and Smithtown East (who might be the second best team on LI). Then, in last Saturday's LI championships, they dominated an excellent Massapequa squad. When you watch some teams, you can pinpoint a weakness, whether it be inconsistent serving, a subpar setter or a sloppy libero. Hills has quality, All-County type guys at every position. Middle Chris Kaimis, libero Cody Lau, outside Mike DeGrazia, setter Remy Janco and offensive weapon James Barone... it's an arsenal that no team on Long Island came close to figuring out. Hills must outlast Bethlehem, Cicero-North Syracuse (the host school) and McQuaid. Pool play begins at 10:00 a.m Saturday with a series of three two-set matches, in which each team plays one another. The top two teams after the round-robin play in a best-of-five final at 4:00 p.m.
At. 2:00 p.m., Eastport plays Victor in the Division II finals. Since LI teams knew they could qualify for States, Eastport had been heavy favorites to advance to the State tourney/finals. After breezing through the Suffolk playoffs, they nipped past three-time defending Nassau champs Bellmore JFK in five grueling sets. More than one Eastport player said the Cougars were "tougher than expected." In the end, they held on for a 25-21 win in the fifth to earn the trip upstate. That five-set nail-biter, their first distance match of the season, can only serve them well.