During the Oyster Bay girls volleyball team’s first two meetings against East Rockaway this season, it was evident that the matchup overwhelmingly favored the other side.
All six sets, and two lopsided victories, went the way of East Rockaway.
On Monday night at LIU Post, however, Oyster Bay found the formula to flip the script with their season on the line. And this time, the conclusion of five sets equaled a grand prize – a county championship.
Outside hitters Katherine Jennette and Kaitlyn Kelly provided timely hitting throughout the back-and-forth tilt, and No. 2 Oyster Bay ultimately prevailed over No. 1 East Rockaway, the defending champion, 16-25, 25-23, 25-21, 16-25, 25-17, to win the Nassau Class C title.
It was Oyster Bay's second county title in the past three seasons.
"I’m so proud of our team," Kelly said. "We put in a lot of hard work for this. We lost to them twice during the regular season and our dedication really pulled through in this game. We showed how hard we can work and come together as a team."
Oyster Bay (7-8) will return to Post on Saturday to face Mattituck in the Long Island Class C championship at noon.
"After those first two meetings we knew that we could beat them, but we really had to step up our attitude," Jennette said. "We really had to bring 100% of everything into the game."
After Gianna Mancusi’s kill brought East Rockaway (11-3) to within 15-14 in the deciding set, Oyster Bay took control for one final stretch that it ultimately rode toward the title. Oyster Bay responded with 10 of the final 13 points, with Kelly’s final kill setting off the championship celebration.
Four consecutive points from Oyster Bay broke a tie at 20 in the third set. East Rockaway then picked up one final point before a kill from Angelina Pavlovic closed out the set and put Oyster Bay ahead 2-1. East Rockaway later proceeded to force the tiebreaking game with a strong run to finish the fourth.
The Rocks rode an early 14-4 start in the opening set to a 25-16 win and a 1-0 advantage before Oyster Bay held off a late East Rockaway rally in the second to win 25-23 and even the match at 1.
Oyster Bay coach Jen Iles detailed the adjustments the team employed to make sure this third and final matchup, with everything at stake, finally favored them.
"Definitely specific spots on serving," Iles said. "Knowing where to cover. Their middle hits hard and blocks well. We talked about how to go around her, where to hit, where to stand. And their outsides hit strong across the court so we practiced that, too.