After losing eight seniors from a team that advanced to the state semifinals in 2016, East Rockaway girls’ volleyball coach Ksenia Brito faced the challenge of rebuilding her team with two battle-tested seniors, a bunch of returnees with limited game action and some promising newcomers.
The season was filled with up and downs – with matches where the Lady Rocks played competitively against the conference’s elite and others where they struggled against teams that seemed weaker than themselves.
Brito tinkered with the lineup and tried a multitude of combinations to find the right chemistry, and the result was a second straight county championship.
Senior outside hitter Melissa Loyer had 12 kills and senior setter Joanna Acampora had 20 assists to lead top-seeded East Rockaway to a 25-15, 25-21, 25-19 sweep of Carle Place in the Nassau Class C title game at the Clark Athletic Center on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury on Nov. 8.
“This bunch is very different from last year’s team,” Brito said. “Different ability levels and different personalities. Finding the right chemistry took time, but we got things in place. They came into this match very pumped up. They knew what they needed to do to get it done, and wanted it badly. Having been here last year definitely helped.”
Paced by Acampora and Loyer, and strong serving from junior Jamie Keegan and sophomore Madison Cipriano, the Lady Rocks announced their presence by running away with the opening set.
East Rockaway ran out to a 6-1 lead in the second set, forcing the Frogs to call a timeout to regroup. Carle Place responded with a 14-8 run to take their first lead of the night at 15-14.
Dominant play in the middle from juniors Brooke DeGiulio and Catherine McClure enabled the Lady Rocks to buckle down and regain control of the set.
The Frogs kept things close in the third set, but each time they appeared to have some life the orange-and-black came up with a big play. Junior libero Jaclyn Ragusa had 12 digs in the match.
East Rockaway’s dream of a second straight trip upstate came to an end as Pierson/Bridgehampton bested the Lady Rocks 23-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-13 in the Long Island championship match at Suffolk CC-Brentwood last Saturday morning.
The Lady Rocks battled back to win the first set after trailing 18-11, but costly unforced errors and a determined Pierson/Bridgehampton team ended East Rockaway’s season.
“We just couldn’t get a good flow going today,” Brito said. “Something wasn’t clicking, and things started to unravel. We had problems passing and setting, and made so many errors. Then, I think the mental side of the game got the better of us. I’m proud of our girls. The seniors are going to be missed big time, but I’m excited about the future.”