Long Time Coming: Westhampton Tops ESM for Suffolk County Boys Volleyball Title - 27 East

Long Time Coming: Westhampton Tops ESM for Suffolk County Boys Volleyball Title

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Westhampton Beach's boys volleyball team won its first Suffolk County Division II championship title since 2019 with its second win in school history over Eastport-South Manor, a 3-1 win Wednesday night at Center Moriches High School. RON ESPOSITO

Westhampton Beach's boys volleyball team won its first Suffolk County Division II championship title since 2019 with its second win in school history over Eastport-South Manor, a 3-1 win Wednesday night at Center Moriches High School. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Alec Kelly (18 kills) sends the ball over Eastport-South Manor blockers. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Alec Kelly (18 kills) sends the ball over Eastport-South Manor blockers. RON ESPOSITO

Senior right side Casey Sidor (15 kills, two blocks) and senior middle hitter Ben Donahue (four kills, two blocks) take flight to stop a hit. RON ESPOSITO

Senior right side Casey Sidor (15 kills, two blocks) and senior middle hitter Ben Donahue (four kills, two blocks) take flight to stop a hit. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski (12 kills) slams the ball over the net. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski (12 kills) slams the ball over the net. RON ESPOSITO

Desirée Keegan on Nov 2, 2023

Casey Sidor collapsed against the Center Moriches gymnasium wall the evening of November 1 in relief. Not only had the senior’s Westhampton Beach boys volleyball team finally earned another Suffolk County Division II championship crown after making it to the title game four of the last five years, but the Hurricanes did so with a 3-1 win — 12-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-23 — over crosstown rival Eastport-South Manor, which eliminated Westhampton Beach the last three seasons.

“This feels incredible,” said Sidor, a right-side hitter who finished with 15 kills, 13 digs, six assists and two blocks. “This is the time where you get to show what you’re made of. This team has been working so hard putting so much time and effort in — a lot of these guys have been playing travel ball — and this is where we knew we could prove ourselves. It was a hard-fought win, and to finally pull through against them and have it be in the county final is surreal.”

The victory is not only the team’s second-known win in school history (2007) over ESM — which also eliminated Westhampton in the semifinals in 2018 — but it’s the first Suffolk County win for the Hurricanes since 2019, the year the program bested Hauppauge before earning its first Long Island Championship title. Westhampton Beach (15-2) advances to compete in the LIC for just its second time on Saturday, November 11, at 10 a.m. back at Center Moriches High School. The Hurricanes will face the winner of Wednesday’s No. 2 Jericho match-up against No. 5 Calhoun.

“The whole is greater than the sum of our parts,” head coach Josh Tuttle said. “This is a team — we aren’t just one guy — and they all played together. Each guy made the next one better. We knew it was going to be a grind, but we buckled up. We were in it for the long haul.”

That showed as the Hurricanes started to slowly piece it together after their first-set loss. Westhampton Beach took a 17-14 lead in the second off a Ben Donahue point (four kills, two blocks, three digs and an assist), and Sidor and senior outside hitter Alec Kelly (18 kills, 15 digs) each picked up two before Donahue tacked on another down the stretch en route to the Hurricanes leveling the match.

“I try to draw on the blockers,” said Donahue, a senior middle hitter. “Those ESM kids are great friends of ours, so it’s a nice competition for us, but I love this team — I’ve learned so much from these guys and their years of experience — because even when times get tough, we find a way to come together.”

The Hurricanes continued to do that in the third, forcing ESM (15-2) to make error after error to jump out to a 4-1 lead, but it didn’t last long. The Hurricanes went on another four-point spurt for an 11-6 advantage, but the Sharks swung the momentum in their direction out of a 15-15 tie — secured on a Sidor tip — for a 21-16 lead. A timeout call did the trick, with Kelly collecting a kill, senior setter Seth Terry (41 assists, nine digs, two kills) earning a point off a skip and senior outside hitter Will Jankowski (12 kills, four blocks, four digs and an ace) slamming down a spike to pull the Hurricanes right back in it, down, 23-20. The Sharks handed Westhampton Beach the next four points on hits that fell out of bounds, and Jankowski sealed the deal with another kill.

“We wanted to watch out for Ayden [DesLauriers],” Jankowski said of ESM’s big-swinging junior outside, whose eight kills and two aces lifted his Sharks to the first-set win. “We knew we couldn’t let his hard hits get past us, but if they did, we also couldn’t let it get us down,” Jankowski continued. “We didn’t pick each other up as we should in the first set. But by the end, we were having fun on the court, which is what we need to be doing because it’s what allows us to be successful.”

Westhampton Beach’s connections only grew stronger in the fourth. After a Jankowski block and two straight kills gave the Hurricanes a 13-8 lead, another block with the help of Donahue and back-to-back Sidor points put Westhampton Beach out front, 17-11.

“We needed everyone to want to be here and want to be in every play,” said Sidor, who added that he feeds off the energy inside the gym after he comes down with a big hit. “It’s electric. That feeling … hundreds of people staring at you. It’s amazing. It’s because of what you did, and they’re cheering for you. The energy from the court to the stands to the bench to the coaches this time of year is different from any regular-season game. You can’t match it.”

And the fans roared after three straight Kelly points and a Jankowski spike was tipped toward the back of ESM’s court rattled the Sharks. Jankowski said communication was key to that 21-17 Hurricanes lead.

“We all discussed what was working for each of us to figure out a game plan that would play to those strengths,” the senior said. “We’ve been battling for years together, so to get to this point feels great. I don’t even think today was one of our best days on the whole, so I think if we can pull out that best when we really need to, I think this team can go far.”

ESM managed a few more kills into a hole created at the center of Westhampton Beach’s side of the court, a weakness the Sharks exploited across the match, but a tip by junior middle blocker James Monserrate and two more Jankowski kills brought the set score to 24-21 before Sidor closed it out.

Donahue said the second the ball hit the ground to secure the final point, he looked over at his coach, who was beaming with pride. The senior said that made all the effort worth it. The win was monumental for Tuttle, too, who grew up in Eastport, used to play for the Sharks and was promoted to head coach in Westhampton Beach three seasons ago.

“To get over the hump and do it against ESM is the best,” the coach said, grinning from ear to ear. “My guys’ grit and determination earned them this win. These were two evenly matched teams, so it was whoever could get their game plan to come together and whoever could stay together through the highs and the lows of the match that would come out the winner, and I’m glad it was us. We’ve been confident in ourselves all along — we knew we could do it — and this game just give us all the more confidence.”

That’s in part because Tuttle and his athletes see ESM as one of the best teams in the state, so the Hurricanes feel this performance puts them right up there, too.

“We stayed together, we brought the energy and we finally got it. There’s a lot of potential, and I think we’re going to states. The sky’s the limit for this team,” Sidor said. “Even if they have one or two good kids, we have five great players, and then some. When all of us are locked in, I don’t think there’s a team stopping us.”

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