West Hempstead and Jericho have a long history with one another. Pete Okulski has been Jericho’s coach for nine years and in that time the home team has always won. Both teams are 7-1 at home.
The Nassau Class B semifinals took place at Long Beach High School, neutral ground. It was anyone’s match and after the fourth set, both teams were neck and neck.
Jericho edged out West Hempstead beating them in the fifth set and winning the semifinals, 12-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-15, 25-18.
“I knew that we had to keep up the momentum we built in the fourth set. We needed to grab an early lead and minimize the errors on the court,” said setter Tyler Blitz, who had 54 assists.
“This was a huge confidence booster because this was a team that was ranked better than us . . . and we knocked them out,” Joe Niemir said.
Hitting errors plagued Jericho (11-8) in the first set. Then there were serving errors, but Jericho came back strong in the fourth set setting up the win in the fifth set.
Jason Katz had 19 kills and four blocks. Niemir had 16 kills. Ben Alon and Spencer Russell had 10 kills each. Russell also had four blocks.
The Jayhawks are slightly familiar with the county finals. Last year, they made their championship debut after a nine year stretch. They lost to Bellmore JFK.
This season they could potentially play them again if No. 1 Bellmore JFK defeats No. 5 Great Neck North.
“There’s some pressure when you are playing in a huge game like that especially when you are playing the team who beat you in the county finals last year,” Niemir said. “As a team we need to focus on the game and minimize the pressure as much as we can.”
The Jayhawks will play in the finals on Nov. 10 at SUNY Old Westbury. The team is hoping it is against Bellmore JFK.
“I have a fire inside of me that wants to destroy Bellmore and knowing that we are the underdogs in my mind gives us the advantage,” Katz said.