A wide-eyed Tyler Jarzabek stood in disbelief over what he and his Bellmore JFK teammates had accomplished on the Albany Capital Center floor.
The win that so narrowly eluded them only a year prior was finally theirs.
“Every other box was checked,” said Jarzabek, an outside hitter, following a 25-21, 25-22, 13-25, 25-20 victory over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Nov. 17, that secured his team's second boys volleyball Division II state title in program history and the first since 2012.
“That last box, state championship, was finally checked – amazing,” Jazabek said.
Recalling how they fell in the fifth set of the 2017 state title match, the Cougars entered 2018 determined to win it all. Particularly premier outside hitter and Newsday’s Nassau Player of the Year, Tyler Anderson, who recorded 395 kills, 145 digs and 39 aces.
“After last year I just wanted this to happen so much,” Anderson said moments after hoisting the championship plaque. “I just wanted that game just so I could get that state championship that we were so close to.”
Anderson said Bellmore JFK’s Nassau B final against Jericho on Nov. 7 served as realization that the Cougars were primed to win their state title.
“We played so hard that game and it was absolutely incredible,” said Anderson. “And in the LICs we realized what we can do and how we could bring that into states. And we completely rode it out and brought it all here and we won.”
Another defining moment came in the final set of the Long Island Division II championship on Nov. 10. After leading Eastport-South Manor, 2-1, and surrendering a 15-7 edge en route to a 25-23 loss in the fourth set, Bellmore JFK squandered a 10-5 advantage in the fifth set and found its season hanging in the balance at match point, trailing 14-13.
But after a timeout, the Cougars broke their huddle and responded in the best way they could, with Anderson leading the charge for three consecutive points and a Long Island championship.
The calming effect of that critical huddle carried on from the Suffolk CCC-Brentwood court nearly 200 miles to the Albany Capital Center, where the Cougars pounced on the title.
“I heard some of the guys talking about that last huddle on the bus ride up to states and one of them said he felt so good,” Bellmore JFK coach Dennis Ringel said. “Tyler looked at everyone and said ‘Guys, we’re fine. We got this.’
“And then he just took over on the last three points. It was almost reminiscent of a 'Hoosiers' moment. Where the star just looks at you and says ‘Guys I got this.’ And he did and he came through in the end.”
For Anderson, 2018 developed into the storybook ending he always dreamed of.
“This is the best way I could’ve ended off all my years with this program,” Anderson said. “This is amazing and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that the program gave me to get this done.”
Road to the championship
Nassau B quarterfinals
def. Roslyn, 3-0
Nassau B semifinals
def. Garden City, 3-1
Nassau B finals
def. Jericho 3-0
Long Island championship
def. Eastport-South Manor, 3-2
State Tournament Pool Play
def. Eden, 2-0
split with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 1-1
DIv. II State championship
def. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 3-1