Whether it’s the fast-paced action, strategic tactics, or the physicality, volleyball has emerged as one of the fasting-growing high school sports in the country.
Some athletes see the game as an alternative to football, while others are looking for a way to get in shape for basketball season. At Long Beach High, volleyball is more than just an activity, it’s a way of life.
That said, it had been a relatively long time since the Marines last won a county title. But, the drought has come to an end. Top-seeded Long Beach was dominant last Friday night and swept No. 2 Bethpage 25-18, 25-20, 25-21 to capture the Nassau Class B boys’ volleyball championship on the campus of Farmingdale State College.
Brian Corrigan and Evan Michaels each had 10 kills to lead the Marines, who won their first county title since 2008.
“We were prepared, and we stuck to what we’ve been talking about all year; winning through strong serve and serve receive,” Long Beach coach Bill Gibson said. “Bethpage has a strong and athletic team. We did a good job keeping them off the net.”
Bethpage, which like Long Beach came in having won eight of its last nine, showed plenty of fight in the final set. The Golden Eagles led 14-10 before Michaels took over. The senior captain had three consecutive points, a kill and two blocks, to help the Marines regain momentum.
“We control our emotions really well and don’t let things get us down,” Michaels said. “Coming into the season, we knew we had the personnel. We set a goal to win a championship and we reached it. Now, we want to take it a further”
While Michaels and Corrigan came up with thunderous hits, Long Beach (17-4) was far from a two-man team. Juniors Dylan Bloomer, John Farina, and Dylan Goldstein were terrific behind the service line. Goldstein and senior Dominick Cieleski were outstanding in the later stage of the opening set.
Bethpage’s size advantage came into play in the second set, but each time the Golden Eagles appeared to be closing the gap, the Marines answered.
With sophomore libero JD Sarmuksnis digging and Cieleski putting his hitters in position to score, the Marines never allowed Bethpage to go on a sustained run.
Dominance from the service area was a key for Long Beach. “We say it all the time, one guy has to go on a run,” Gibson said. “We focus on keeping the opponent out of their system and going on runs. If multiple guys go on runs, we’re going to win. It’s why we serve aggressively.”
Cieleski and Farina each went on lengthy runs to set the tone in the opening set. Bloomer had service three aces in the final set.
Long Beach advanced to the Southeast Regional final/Long Island championship where it met Westhampton for the right to make the trek up to Albany for the state championships.