East Meadow impresses with run to finals


East Meadow turned plenty of heads during the Nassau County Division 1 boys’ volleyball tournament.

First, the No. 8 Jets stunned top-seeded Massapequa in five sets on Halloween and then advanced to the county final by tripping up No. 4 Plainview 3-1 on Nov. 4. Syosset proved to be too much for East Meadow as the second-seeded Braves won 25-13, 25-22, 26-24, 25-16 and the championship at SUNY Old Westbury on Nov. 8, but the Jets (13-3 Division 1 Conference B) still made tremendous strides after winning just five times in 2022.

And with just two seniors graduating, the Jets could be a contender again next year.

“We earned every step of it,” East Meadow coach Rachel Barry said. “Taking Massapequa was a major accomplishment. They’re a fantastic program and they’ve never been weak. And then to really prove it, we take it to a four-seed Plainview and in four sets.”

The Jets were competitive in spurts but had trouble containing Syosset star Aaron Johnson, who had 17 kills, six blocks and an ace.

“They hold the ball a really long time when they set, so a delay in our approach to block was very challenging,” Barry said of the Braves. “[Johnson] is obviously one of the best players in the county, and their libero is outstanding.”

The Jets scored the first four points of the opening set, but the Braves quickly got the next five to take the lead. A Syosset net violation knotted the score for East Meadow before the Braves went on a 7-2 run and closed the set by collecting nine of the final 11 points.

East Meadow jumped out to a 14-7 lead in the second set, featuring an 11-4 run highlighted by three kills from junior Julian Kimak, pretty soft volley points by senior Justin Hendler and junior Ihor Dekajlo and Hendler and senior Karl Kraker stuffing a Syosset kill attempt.

Johnson’s ace and three kills keyed a 11-3 Braves run that gave them an 18-17 lead and Syosset later held a 22-20 advantage before East Meadow tied it on points by juniors Nicholas DeStefano and Joseph Lanza. But the Jets sent the ensuing serve out of bounds and had a kill attempt go into the net before Malvin He’s kill iced it for the Braves.

Syosset was poised for the sweep when it took 8-2 and 15-11 leads in the third set, but East Meadow again fought back and broke a 21-21 tie with two Kimak kills and a Braves net violation. Syosset then scored three straight points and tied it at 24 on an illegal formation by the Jets. Fortunately for East Meadow, the Braves sailed their next serve over the end line and volleyed the ball out of bounds on the ensuing possession to give the Jets the set.

Syosset scored four of the first five points in the fourth set and East Meadow could only get as close as 5-4 before the Braves pulled away for the title.

“Not enough consistency,” Barry lamented. “We had a lot of offensive weapons, and we were trying to mix them, but we were getting stopped on their end. We had a hard time earning our momentum and keeping it.”