A year after Roslyn spoiled Calhoun’s hopes of back-to-back Nassau Division II boys’ volleyball championships, the Colts returned the favor.
Top-seeded Calhoun used a balanced attack and took advantage of a second-set lineup gaffe by the Bulldogs to reclaim the county title Nov. 8 at Farmingdale State College, 25-22, 25-19, 25-20.
Senior middle hitter Tommy Bello had 20 kills and five blocks, senior libero Brian Sanchez had 23 digs, and senior setter Ryan Pucella had 26 assists to propel the Colts, who two nights later on the same court fell just short to Hauppauge in four intense sets in the Long Island DII championship match.
“We played our hearts out,” Bello said. “This group of seniors, we’ve been the best of friends for five years. Our chemistry is off the charts. We were focused all year on the county championship and really wanted to face Roslyn to avenge last season’s result.”
In the county final, Calhoun (13-5) held off a late charge from Roslyn to take the opening set. It was 23-21 when seniors Sean DiPaola and Matt Kalfas sandwiched kills around an opposing point to win it.
“It was an honor to play with all of these guys,” said DiPaola, who switched from soccer to volleyball prior to last season and became an impact outside hitter. “We wanted the county title bad.”
In the second set, a bizarre twist took some steam, along with six points, away from third-seeded Roslyn.
An illegal substitution by the Bulldogs, not caught at the time it took place, led to a lengthy delay as officials sorted through the lineup card. After a 15-minute discussion it was determined the substitution penalty occurred with Roslyn trailing 12-8, wiping out its 14-12 lead. The Colts went on to earn 13 of the next 24 points to capture the set and inch closer to the title.
“They were definitely down after that and we fed off it,” Bello said.
Calhoun coach Ryan Pastuch said in between the second and third set, he reminded the Colts of their recent history with Roslyn.
“We went five sets in last year’s county final and earlier this season we came back to beat Roslyn after being down 2-0,” Pastuch said. “We knew we had to keep fighting for every point like it was the last. I wanted to make sure we kept our foot down on the pedal.”
In the Long Island championship match, Calhoun gave Hauppauge all it could handle before falling by the slimmest of margins: 26-28, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25. It was the Eagles’ first L.I. title since 2015.
“Four points decided which team went upstate,” Pastuch said. “We definitely gave everything we had and played a great match.”
Bello (23), DiPaola (18) and Kalfas combined for 55 kills. Pucella handed out 38 assists and also had 8 digs. Sanchez had 26 digs and senior Luke Gallo chipped in 10.
“It was a heated match and a lot of fun to be a part of,” DiPaola said.