South Side’s Stephanie Jackson was seeing much more than just a volleyball when she went up for a kill that could seal the set and control the match.
“I realized that we’ve been working so hard for this since spring, even before then,” Jackson said. “Since the moment you touch the volleyball, you’ve been working so hard for this set and you want to end it because you want it so bad, that county championship. The passion, the fire just came out in that kill.”
That kill ended a back-and-forth second set, giving No. 2 South Side a two-game advantage in a 25-23, 28-26, 13-25, 25-13 victory over top-seeded Manhasset in the Nassau Class A final Thursday night at SUNY Old Westbury.
South Side (15-3) will play Kings Park (19-0) in the Long Island Class A championship/Southeast regional final at Suffolk County Community College Saturday at 4 p.m.
The Cyclones had a strong all-around performance, with Caroline LaMacchia’s 23 digs, Caroline Lanzillotta’s five kills and three blocks, Jackie Wilkins’ 16 assists and 20 digs, Jaden Garelle’s five blocks and four kills, Colleen Farrell’s eight kills and four blocks and Jackson’s eight kills, 16 digs and four blocks.
“I could throw anybody in at any time to do any single thing, and that’s what I think is so special about this group,” coach Cheryl Scalice said. “They’re also fighters. You can have a lot of athletes, great skill players, but you need fighters.”
South Side and Manhasset played a tightly contested first set, but the Cyclones never trailed after taking an 11-10 lead before winning 25-23. The second set featured similar tenacity, and the Cyclones celebrated following Jackson’s final kill in the 28-26 victory.
Manhasset (15-3) took the third set, 25-13, before the Cyclones opened a 6-0 lead en route to capturing their first county title since 2014. Lanzillotta’s final kill led to a dogpile.
“It’s always the passion that wins those games,” Jackson said, “and it’s the passion and the heart we leave out there on the court. Manhasset is an amazing team, and when it came down to it, our team got together.”
That intensity was clear after Jackson’s final kill in the second set, which put the Cyclones in control of the match.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It was probably one of the best feelings you could ever have.”