Versatility and devastating power make the Long Beach girls volleyball team one of the toughest to play in Nassau.
The Marines’ 6-2 offense features athletic setters in senior Natalie Swegler and sophomore Grace Rosenberg, both of whom have a solid working relationship with senior powerhouse Gabby Ayzenberg.
This trio was at the forefront of Wednesday’s 3-1 win (25-20, 25-12, 18-25, 25-13) over host Plainview JFK in Nassau AA-I, showing the ability to pummel the ball into the floor and place it in areas where the defense wasn’t.
“Even when you’re going hard every single time, then you go off speed and it throws the defense off,” said Rosenberg, whose 10 kills, seven assists and seven aces showed her complete repertoire. “They don’t even see it coming.”
Rosenberg’s power variation was particularly difficult for the Hawks to figure out. On one serve, she’d drive the ball deep into the back row. On the next, she’d place it perfectly among all six players. But Rosenberg’s biggest contributions came alongside Swegler (14 assists) as setters, finding Ayzenberg (10 kills), Paulina Cardona (three) and others.
“We have a lot of options,” Ayzenberg said, “so if someone’s not doing their job, the next person has an opportunity.”
Ayzenberg had five kills in the Marines’ first eight points of the first set, helping Long Beach (2-0) to a 25-0 win. In the next set, Rosenberg fed Swegler and then vice versa in an easy 25-12 win.
Plainview JFK (1-1) dominated serve in the third, and Long Beach had problems returning the ball, which Ayzenberg attributed to the complacency that comes with a 2-0 lead. The Hawks took the set, 25-18.
“In the fourth, you just have to forget about what happened and push forward,” Swegler said.
So they did. The Marines led by 16-4 before winning, 25-13.
Passing improved from last season, Ayzenberg said, giving Long Beach more fluidity on offense. It showed against Plainview JFK, as the Marines’ back row was able to make controlled initial passes to the setters.
It’s this improvement that has Long Beach excited for the season, even though a move up to Class AA from Class A could prove daunting. Still, several Nassau coaches believe the Marines will be one of the county’s top teams.
“We just want to show that we belong here,” Swegler said.
Added Ayzenberg: “And I think we definitely do.”