ALBANY -- Tyler Anderson and his teammates found themselves with the same rare opportunity only a year ago.
Yet this time around he and the Bellmore JFK boys volleyball team didn’t conclude the season in heartbreak. Instead, they were immersed in jubilation.
“This is just an amazing, awesome feeling,” said Anderson, the premier outside hitter who helped lead the Cougars to their first Division II state title since 2012 with a 25-21, 25-22, 13-25, 25-20 victory over Burnt Hills-Ballstone Lake at Albany Capital Center on Saturday. “After last year I just wanted this to happen so much. That carried me through this and through the whole day. I just wanted that game just so I could get that state championship that we were so close to.”
Bellmore JFK (19-1) ended the 2017 season with a crushing blow in a five-set loss in the state final. Saturday the Cougars jumped out to a quick 2-0 advantage before dropping the third set. After the Spartans pulled to within 19-18 in the fourth, Bellmore JFK furiously responded with six of the final eight points to capture the state crown.
“It’s very overwhelming,” Anderson said. “I never thought in my four years of volleyball that this program would win a state championship. I never, ever thought so. This is amazing.”
Bellmore JFK defeated Eden, 25-20, 25-23 in their first match of pool play and won the second of two sets against Burnt Hills, 26-24, to advance to the finals.
“This season has not been a smooth ride,” smiled Bellmore JFK coach Dennis Ringel. “It’s been a little bit of a bumpy road and roller coaster. It wasn’t all smooth. But we found a way. Guys stepped up in crucial times and made plays.
“Even when we didn’t play well we scrapped and found ways to make the play one more time. It was phenomenal.”
Ringel said the Cougars’ goal entering the season was to play on Nov. 17 in Albany. Nevertheless, there was still a surreal sense after earning that previously elusive final point.
“I’m just full of shock,” outside hitter Tyler Jarzabek said. “I never would’ve expected this to happen at the beginning of the season. But we worked hard and it’s so fulfilling.”
Jarzabek spoke about the underlying factors that he believes propelled the squad to championship level.
“Heart, and we’re a family,” Jarzabek said. “We have such close relationships with each other and it just makes playing more fun and makes us that much better.”
“It’s icing on the cake,” setter Cooper Moran said. “It’s really amazing. Last year we came up a little short and this year we won it all. We used it as motivation and did it together.”