In perhaps no other sport are there emotional ups and downs, ebbs and flows, like those experienced in volleyball. It’s especially the case come playoff time, as the East Hampton boys volleyball team put its season on the line Friday night against Sayville in the Suffolk County Division II semifinals.
On the very court and in the same round in which the Bonackers’ 2011 season was halted, the 2012 season was extended. Behind a balanced attack led by 20 kills from middle blocker Henry Whitney, Bonac outlasted the rival Golden Flashes, 25-17, 26-28, 22-25, 25-18, 25-22.
“It’s the exact same scenario as last year, only we won this time and the seniors got a bit of redemption,” said Bonackers coach Josh Brussell. “We didn’t expect it to be easy at all.”
The win was sweet, but his squad barely had time to celebrate. Players hopped a 7:30 a.m. bus from East Hampton High School the next morning for a 10 a.m. matchup against Eastport South Manor (10-2) in the Division II county championship on Saturday. The Sharks earned the No. 1 seed in the bracket by going undefeated in League III and thumped Center Moriches in their semifinal match. During the regular season, the Bonackers extended ESM to five games in their first meeting on September 27, but failed to make a dent in the rematch, which ESM won 26-24, 25-18, 25-11. In the third meeting, the Sharks were triumphant once again, winning their third straight county title. (See separate article).
In a match against Sayville that was destined to go the distance, East Hampton played some of its most solid volleyball this season in the decisive fifth game. Bonac had zero service errors and mixed up its attack. A kill by L.B. Lownes allowed the visitors to construct an 11-6 lead; they never trailed from that point on, despite five ties to come. East Hampton went ahead for good when, at 19-19, ESM erred on its serve, and Lownes came through with another kill for a two-point advantage. King finished the match with a smash off a block, his 18th and final kill of the evening.
“We went on these runs when we didn’t play well at all but I think overall we played really well,” Brussell said. “I think our middles did an outstanding job, and everybody played together.”
At times East Hampton looked like the far superior team—more hitters, better hitters, better passing, fewer mistakes. In fact, Bonac registered its highest kill percentage (70.3) of the season. But then there were lulls, like the one in which they squandered a 9-1 lead in game three. Back-to-back double blocks, each involving middle blocker Evan Larsen, had built that advantage, but Sayville roared back to tie it at 18-all, and ultimately took a 2-1 lead in games.
That win followed a game two victory during a set in which neither side led by more than three points. East Hampton twice fought off game points, but Sayville converted the third time when Bonac was unable to handle a Golden Flash serve.
However, the Bonackers regrouped with their season on the line, steamrolling to a 23-9 lead in the fourth game. Sayville sliced the deficit to six at 24-18, but setter Brady Yusko (44 assists) set up Lownes for one of his 18 kills, evening the match at two games apiece and setting up the fifth-set drama.