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East Rockaway nets volleyball title

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Not even having its season delayed by Covid-19 could keep the East Rockaway girls’ volleyball team from banding together to capture the Nassau County Class C championship.

“The whole team had a really hard year with Covid,” junior Katy Howard said, “so it was great to get back to sports and win.”

East Rockaway defeated Carle Place, 3 sets to 2, on April 26 to capture its first county championship since 2018. Junior Theresa Lynch shined for the Rocks (4-5), notching 13 digs and five aces. Gianna Mancusi (four blocks, three kills), Alyssa Walsh (10 assists) and Adrianna Polizzi (16 assists, seven digs) also came up big for East Rockaway.

After dropping two of the first three sets, Lynch said, team members lifted one another’s spirits in a huddle and won the next two, adding that she was proud of their chemistry. “It was amazing, especially going to five games,” she said. “It was really crazy. I’m going to miss the seniors next year, and hopefully we win again.”

Coach Ksenia Brito said she was proud of her team for bouncing back after a sluggish first set and a tough third set. The Rocks dropped the first stanza, 28-26, then won the second, 25-18, before losing the third, 25-17, and winning the final two, 25-19 and 25-17.

Brito said she was anxious because volleyball is usually the first sport student athletes prepare for coming out of summer vacation, but things were different this year because of Covid-19. The season typically runs from August through November, but the coronavirus pandemic forced its delay until March, and East Rockaway played a condensed two-month schedule.

“I was nervous that the girls wouldn’t be so into it this year, but that was not the case,” Brito said. “The girls were ready to go, and every day they showed up. We had fun and we worked hard.”

After the third set, Brito told her team to relax and remember they were playing on their home court. They had worked too hard, she said, to let the title go.

“I was so proud,” she said. “I knew they could do it. I didn’t want to leave anything out there, and if leaving things out there meant that they were giving points away and not making Carle Place earn them, that would be the worst part.”

Typically, East Rockaway would go on to play for the Long Island championship for a chance to compete for the state title after winning the county crown, but because of coronavirus delays and the shortened season, the campaign ended with the county final this year.

Brito said she was excited for the future because 13 of her 17 players on the roster will return next season. As for winning the county championship, Brito said, it was the culmination of the team’s season-long aspirations.

“Going into the year knowing that that was the ultimate championship — there’s not a Long Island championship or states this year — it probably put a little more pressure onto that game,” she said. “We worked all year for Monday the 26th. We were going one step at a time, but also really looking at what would make us the most prepared for that one game.”