Bonac Volleyball Dealt a Cruel Blow
The East Hampton High School girls volleyball team, which had cruised through league play undefeated this fall, at 12-0, and which seemed poised to win the county’s Class A championship and possibly go upstate for the first time since 2009, was dealt a cruel blow here Monday by fifth-seeded Kings Park, a well-balanced team like the Bonackers, but one that in the end that afternoon made fewer mistakes.
As result of the Kingswomen’s 25-23, 25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 25-13 win, they are to face Westhampton Beach, a team that East Hampton beat handily twice this season, for the county Class A championship at Suffolk Community College-Brentwood this afternoon. The Hurricanes on Monday defeated Eastport-South Manor in three straight. Kings Park, with a 10-2 record, its losses having come at the hands of Eastport-South Manor, had finished as the runner-up to the 12-0 Sharks in League V. Tonight’s winner is to play the Nassau County Class A champion in the Long Island championship game at Farmingdale State College on Sunday.
The visitors announced their intentions right away as their setter, Carly Estherson, began the match with an ace that Zoe Leach couldn’t handle, and went on to rack up four more points, the last another ace to Leach. Finally, a kill by Mikela Junemann, Bonac’s chief hitting threat, stopped the bleeding, but only temporarily as a double-contact call on East Hampton turned the ball over to Lauren Weir, whose subsequent ace, upping Kings Park’s lead to 7-1, prompted Kathy McGeehan, East Hampton’s veteran coach, to call for a timeout.
In short order, East Hampton found itself in a 12-2 hole, leaving its fans, unused to such a turn of events, wondering if the team could come back. Which, indeed, it did, with Molly Mamay, Erin Decker, Ella Gurney, and Elle Johnson succeeding one another at the service line.
With the latter, East Hampton’s setter, serving, Weir hit long in going for a kill, after which came a double-contact call, bringing the Bonackers to within three, at 16-13. Moments later, thanks to a solo block at the middle of the net by Gurney, it was 19-17.
McGeehan called another timeout after Amanda Alongi served an ace that Decker couldn’t handle for 21-17. A kill by Madyson Neff when play resumed put the ball in East Hampton’s hands again. Johnson had a good chance to make it 21-19, but erred in trying to tip the ball over the net. A long kill attempt by McKenna Knott narrowed the margin to three again, but a serve by Neff landed just beyond the baseline.
East Hampton, thanks to two kills by Junemann, the first through a double block, an ace by Gurney, and an error by Alyssa Sticco, tied it at 23, raising the home team’s fans’ hopes immensely.
But it was not to be as Gurney, who, after serving, slid flat out in an unavailing attempt to dig a soft tip over the heads of two teammates, and as Estherson capped the 25-23 win with a hard kill that Neff touched on its way out of bounds.
The second set began much more favorably as Neff notched five winning points before the visitors sided out, but Kings Park, to the chagrin of Bonac’s fans, came right back, taking the lead at 7-6 and ultimately extending it again to 10 points, at 21-11 — a span during which the visitors benefited from a number of East Hampton miscues, including service errors by Johnson, Junemann, and Neff, an ace that Mamay let sail by her, thinking it was headed out, and hitting errors by Neff, Gurney, and Junemann, a team effort, in other words.
A kill by Estherson from midcourt capped the 25-17 win, which put East Hampton at the brink.
Happily, McGeehan’s crew rebounded, with a 25-19 win, closed out by Johnson’s tip over two blockers, and with a 25-23 victory, which Neff assured with a resounding kill.
A netted serve by Gurney, an error at the net by Johnson, and an ace to Mamay got the Bonackers off on the wrong foot as the decisive set began, and Kings Park was largely unheaded thereafter.
When the teams switched sides, the Kingswomen were up 13-8, and soon were leading 15-8 owing to errant kill attempts by Junemann and Nicole Realmuto, one of East Hampton’s middle hitters. Realmuto soon atoned with a tip to the floor, but East Hampton continued to make what in tennis would be called “unforced errors” on its way to a 25-13 loss that sent Kings Park home a winner.
Later, McGeehan said that Kings Park had put more pressure on her players than they had put on Kings Park. Consequently, she said, “We weren’t comfortable the whole night. We were always struggling with our passing and, when it came to our middle hitters, who usually are a big part of our offense, somewhat out of sync. In retrospect, we probably should have set Mikela more on the outside. . . . Kings Park has playoff experience; they’ve been to the states. If we’d had a first-round game, instead of a bye, and had won that, it might have given us the confidence boost that we needed. Even in those sets that we won we ground it out — we were never comfortable.”
This year’s edition, she added, was at least the seventh in her 38-year career that had gone through league play undefeated. “Ninety-six, 2002, ’03, ’04, ’09, 2010, ’18 . . . and maybe ’85 and ’92. . . .