After Loss, Previously Unbeaten Hampton Bays Girls Volleyball Team Counting Down Days to Rematch - 27 East

After Loss, Previously Unbeaten Hampton Bays Girls Volleyball Team Counting Down Days to Rematch

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Senior outside hitter Tania Quiros. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Tania Quiros. RON ESPOSITO

Junior middle blocker Asha Pensa-Johnson. RON ESPOSITO

Junior middle blocker Asha Pensa-Johnson. RON ESPOSITO

RON ESPOSITO

RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Mia Schoerlin. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Mia Schoerlin. RON ESPOSITO

Desirée Keegan on Sep 26, 2023

While a 3-2 loss to Bayport-Blue Point stings for the previously undefeated Hampton Bays girls volleyball team, there’s one major difference in the mentality of these Baymen (6-1) after the 25-17, 14-25, 20-25, 25-20, 11-15 defeat compared to last year: They know they’re capable not only of a comeback but of taking down the Phantoms (4-1), a team that knocked out Hampton Bays in the Suffolk County Class B championship game last season.

“Bayport is 100 percent beatable,” said senior outside hitter Tania Quiros. “This was a game against ourselves. We tend to get in our heads a lot, but this proved that we could definitely beat Bayport.”

And the girls showed that as, with last year’s losses in the back of their minds, they used a Quiros ace, a Brianna Valderrama dump, back-to-back Asha Pensa-Johnson blocks and a Gianna Betta skip to come away from a 12-12 tie to take the first set.

“The key was that we played with confidence in the first set,” Quiros said. “We were a bit nervous since we’d lost to them in counties last year, but we knew we had to come back stronger and smarter this year. We just need to maintain that level of confidence throughout the whole game.”

Their assurance began to wane as Baymen errors helped Bayport-Blue Point to 9-5 leads to start the second and third sets. The Phantoms strung together multiple runs to make a Hampton Bays push seem that much more daunting.

“There were points where we needed to get our energy up,” said Betta, who had 28 assists, seven digs and three kills. “Before coming into the match, we had a discussion that, no matter what, we had to support each other. Even when we would make a mistake, we would cheer each other on to try and get right back into it. That support that we had for each other gave our players confidence boosts.”

But something changed for them in the fourth. The Baymen went on a 10-1 run, highlighted by three Pensa-Johnson kills — she finished with 18 kills, 15 digs and five blocks — to give the Baymen a 15-10 lead and force Bayport-Blue Point to call a timeout.

“I liked that we were being loud, communicating and hyping each other up, which without a doubt helped how we played,” said senior middle blocker Nellie Nicolova (16 digs, 11 kills, four aces, three blocks), who also picked up points on a kill and an ace during the scoring spurt. “I was especially proud of the smart plays my team made.”

If the opportunity for a dump, tip or skip was there, the team took it. Senior outside hitter Mia Schoerlin (14 digs, five kills) took many of those chances and also found herself at the service line for several straight Baymen points.

“I adjusted to how they were hitting so it would be easier to cover as we were blocking, as well as changing my placement when I hit and served,” she said. “Going on a run while serving and having your whole team cheer you on is a great feeling. We found spots that would be difficult for Bayport to pick up.”

Hampton Bays went up, 23-17, in the fourth on a Quiros kill (33 digs, 11 kills, four aces), and after the Phantoms scored three straight, Pensa-Johnson closed it out with another solid spike.

“We knew what was at stake. We needed to win it,” Betta said. “We regrouped and knew that we could do it. We started communicating and throwing ourselves at every ball. We played scrappy and confident. That’s what got us back in it.”

In the tiebreak set, Hampton Bays was out front, 11-6, before Bayport-Blue Point recorded nine straight to earn the win.

“The biggest thing for our team is that when one person starts getting in their head, everyone else does,” Quiros said. “I think that we learned that we work best when our confidence levels are high and we have nothing but support for our teammates.”

Hampton Bays readies for another tough opponent when the Baymen take on undefeated Elwood-John Glenn (4-0) Thursday, September 28, at 6:45 p.m. Hampton Bays knocked out the Knights in the county semifinal game last season.

“We made it to countys last year and want to make it further this year,” said Betta, who added that each match prepares her team to take that next step. “We learned here that anything is possible. It’s possible to come back, but it is also possible to fall behind. We know that we are more than capable of reaching our goals — we just have to fight hard from beginning to end.”

Nicolova said she’s looking forward to another intense match-up but has her sights set on when Hampton Bays hosts Bayport-Blue Point on October 13. That match is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

“We most definitely are looking forward to a rematch and will be counting down the days,” Quiros said. “I think this team has so much potential. If we keep up the hard work, I know we can get so far.”

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