The Long Beach girls took the court for the Nassau County Class AA volleyball title match knowing full well what they were up against. Yes, the Lady Marines were the top seed, and yes they had swept Massapequa in an early-season match, but they were facing a program that had captured the county title each and every year since 2000.
Like all great sports dynasties, eventually they come to an end. Long Beach rode the momentum of an epic first-set win and went on to sweep the 17-time defending county champs 33-31, 25-22, 25-20 on Nov. 8 at the Clark Athletic Center on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury.
Junior hitter Emma McGovern had 19 kills, three aces, and two blocks, and made a huge play to stave off a set point in the opening set to tie the score at 31. Junior Grace Rosenberg had 25 assists and 10 kills, the final one coming emphatically at match point. Long Beach last won a county title in 2013 when it was competing in Class A.
Long Beach head coach Kerri Rehnback felt winning the opening set was key. “Winning game one sets the tone for the rest of the match,” Rehnback said. “I thought that going in, but when the score started rising I told my scorekeeper that winning this game is going to be crucial. When the score goes into the 30s, if you don’t win you feel deflated. After that, our game plan was to take early leads in the sets that followed. We’re hard to come back against because we don’t give up many long runs.”
While Rosenberg and McGovern racked up points with strong swinging and serving, the Lady Marines got contributions from all nine players in their rotation. Junior Kathleen Verastegui proved why she’s one of the top liberos in the county, and seniors Kelly McDonagh and Paulina Czartoryski were terrific on serve-receive.
The team’s depth paid off as seniors Paulina Cardona, Sarah Price and Lexie Correia, and sophomore Maggie Swegler all had strong performances
In the second set, Long Beach took an 18-10 lead and appeared to be running away with it, but the Lady Chiefs battled back to get within two points at 21-19 before falling by three points.
When the Lady Marines got out to a 15-7 lead in the third, Rehnback felt the moment belonged to Long Beach.
“I turned to the bench and told them that we’re going to win this,” Rehnbeck said. “Of course, Massapequa immediately made a comeback and got right back into it. All the girls played tremendous. This truly was a team effort. We have had some outstanding players in the past, but we didn’t win. Eleven weeks ago, we walked into the gym with a goal to be in this match and to win it. We did it.”