Long Beach was in unfamiliar territory in Sunday night’s Long Island Class AA girls’ volleyball championship match against Commack before a jam-packed Farmingdale State College gymnasium.
The Lady Marines squandered a two-set lead and were facing elimination for the first time since being swept on last year’s L.I. finals stage.
“We just had to dig deep,” senior Emma McGovern said. “We were determined not to leave the court without a plaque.”
McGovern proved the difference maker, blasting 10 of her career-high 36 kills in the deciding set as Long Beach captured its first L.I. championship in program history, 25-16, 25-23, 15-25, 23-25, 25-14. Senior Grace Rosenberg handed out 34 assists and senior Kathleen Verastegui had 38 digs.
“We never had our backs against the wall all season,” Long Beach coach Kerri Rehnback said. “Between the mounting pressure and the stamina it takes going five sets, I was a little concerned. But the girls seized the moment. We built a small lead early in the last set and I think that was important mentally.”
The Lady Marines advanced to the New York State Class AA Final Four this weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center. They’ll compete with Shenendehowa (Section II), Victor (V) and Pine Bush (IX) in pool play on Saturday, with the top two advancing to the final at noon on Sunday.
Even since it fell to eventual state champion Connetquot in the 2017 L.I. title match, Long Beach set a goal to get back and complete some unfinished business.
“On the bus ride home last year the girls talked about winning a Long Island championship,” Rehnback said.
The Lady Marines made their statement, but Commack gave them all they could handle after the opening set. “The second set was some of the best volleyball I’ve seen all season from both sides,” Rehnback said. “Everyone executed and it just came down to a few small things.”
Senior Marlene Kramer was clutch in the front row in the second set, and senior Lexie Correia and sophomores Julia Myers and Tori Price chipped in spirited play as well.
However, McGovern felt Long Beach started playing a little scared after moving within one set of the crown. Commack turned the tide behind the play of Abbey Dummler and cruised in the third set and rallied late to take the fourth.
“I thought we played great in the fourth,” Rehnback said. “We were up 22-20. We just froze at the end.”
Scoring 10 of the first 16 points in the fifth sent the Lady Marines on their way. Junior Maggie Swegler had a key kill, and the trio of McGovern, Rosenberg and Verastegui brought it home.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” McGovern said. “I keep replaying the match over and over in my head. Commack is an incredible team that plays amazing defense. We’re all overwhelmed with happiness.”
Long Beach takes a 17-0 record upstate.