Westhampton Beach Boys Volleyball Takes Set From West Islip - 27 East

Westhampton Beach Boys Volleyball Takes Set From West Islip

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Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski blocks the ball. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski blocks the ball. RON ESPOSITO

Junior libero Aaron Kiefer digs out a return. RON ESPOSITO

Junior libero Aaron Kiefer digs out a return. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Alec Kelly slams down a kill. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Alec Kelly slams down a kill. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Alec Kelly spikes the ball past blockers. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Alec Kelly spikes the ball past blockers. RON ESPOSITO

Sophomore outside hitter Cameron Giordano smacks the ball over the net. RON ESPOSITO

Sophomore outside hitter Cameron Giordano smacks the ball over the net. RON ESPOSITO

Junior middle hitter James Monserrate sends the ball past a blocker. RON ESPOSITO

Junior middle hitter James Monserrate sends the ball past a blocker. RON ESPOSITO

Senior setter Seth Terry and junior middle hitter James Monserrate go up for the block. RON ESPOSITO

Senior setter Seth Terry and junior middle hitter James Monserrate go up for the block. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski pushes the ball over the net. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski pushes the ball over the net. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski spikes the ball. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski spikes the ball. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski and junior liber Aaron Kiefer dive for the ball. RON ESPOSITO

Senior outside hitter Will Jankowski and junior liber Aaron Kiefer dive for the ball. RON ESPOSITO

Desirée Keegan on Oct 18, 2023

The Westhampton Beach boys volleyball team has already proved it has what it takes to hang with some of the top teams in Suffolk County. And the Hurricanes (9-2) did it again Thursday by taking a set from near-perfect West Islip (12-1), dropping their closest match of the season, 28-26, 25-17, 25-27, 26-24.

“Because the sets were close, it felt like the game could have gone either way, and it makes me hopeful for our chances going into the playoffs,” said senior outside hitter Will Jankowski, who recorded 15 kills for Westhampton Beach. “I think that as the game progressed, we adapted well to West Islip’s style of play. It was great to see the team doing a good job of blocking, which had been an issue previously, and I’m really glad we were able to improve on that especially against a team with such a strong offense.”

Westhampton Beach came out firing in the first, scoring five straight points with Jankowski at the service line to take an 11-6 lead and force the Lions to call timeout. Jankowski started the scoring spurt with a tip and ended it with a kill.

“I was having fun, because playing a good team is something to enjoy, and rising to the challenge is what sports is all about,” Jankowski said. “When I go up to swing, I try to see the blockers’ position before I jump, so I know what spots are open. But if I’m unable to do that, my libero Aaron Keifer and [assistant] coach [Jackie] Reed try to yell out what’s open and that really helps me not swing into a block.”

Junior libero Aaron Keifer, who dove all over the court for several big gets October 12, said while he didn’t think he performed at his best, he’s enjoyed the relationship he and Jankowski have formed.

“This year, we got really close, and when one of us makes a mistake, we really pick each other up,” Keifer said. “I feel like we didn’t individually play bad, but we didn’t play to the potential that we know we have. There have been games where we have really come together as a team and worked with each other to push through tough streaks, but I feel like the West Islip game wasn’t one of them.”

The Hurricanes let the lead slide as the Lions scored six straight of their own to tie the set at 15-all. Jankowski’s kills reknotted things at 25-25 and 26-26, but West Islip took the next two to win. That momentum propelled West Islip to win by a wider margin in the second. Big hitters Seamus Smith, Zach Thomas and Chris Thomas collected 26, 18 and 14 kills, respectively, for the Lions across the match.

“One thing we seemed to be doing more than usual was spreading the court with who was being set — instead of focusing on one person in the front row, we tried to use all three hitters,” Jankowski said. “We thrive when the energy is up. That’s when we play our best volleyball.”

The Hurricanes regained that steam in the third, taking a 17-16 lead off a West Islip error and turning it into a 21-17 advantage off a Ben Donahue (eight kills, five blocks) kill. Sophomore Cameron Giordano (nine kills, two blocks), who was pulled up for his first varsity appearance, also slammed a spike off would-be blockers for a point during the spurt, and kept swinging to close out the set. He recorded a block that gave Westhampton Beach a 25-24 edge, before Jankowski and senior outside hitter Alec Kelly (16 kills) closed it out for the third-set win.

“He only got one or two chances to practice with us, but really stepped up during the game and wasn’t afraid to hit the ball even when the game was on the line,” Jankowski said of Giordano. “I’m hoping that we keep working with him in order to be able to rely on him more on offense.”

“I think we were playing scrappy and getting good block touches, which helped keep it close,” senior setter Seth Terry (45 assists) added. “Will Janakowski’s kill in the third helped us gain some momentum — it’s great for the team energy when stuff like that happens — and I think we reacted well, but not the best we could have.”

Jankowski said the team has come together better as a unit this season thanks, especially, to extra team dinners, along with other team-bonding activities.

“Just being able to spend time off the court bonding as a team allows us to work better on the court,” he said.

Keifer said that unity was evident in the third set Thursday, but he thought the defensive intensity was lacking overall.

“Our blocking was the best it has ever been, but our defensive game slowed down a little,” he said, pointing to a 3-1 win over Ward Melville at the beginning of the month as a time where he thought his Hurricanes boasted a complete game.

Terry also said he doesn’t think the loss to West Islip was a fair representation of where his team is at, especially after narrowly falling, 3-2, to Bay Shore (11-1), the top team in the county. Bay Shore’s only loss was a 3-2 one to West Islip on September 27.

“I think we learned that we have to come together as a team for that upper level of competition,” Terry said. “Everyone played a little off, but I think next big matchup we’ll be ready.”

The game he’s talking about is a potential rematch against Eastport-South Manor (11-1), the top team in Division II. The Sharks suffered their only defeat of the season at the hands of Bay Shore, 3-2, and didn’t match up with Westhampton Beach during the regular season, but have ended the Hurricanes’ season in three of the last four years.

“I think we are a really talented team and that we can really give Eastport-South Manor a run this year at counties,” Keifer said. “With all the seniors on the team, it really makes me want to make a push and go far this year, not only for myself, but for them.”

Westhampton Beach traveled to Center Moriches (2-7) on Tuesday, but results were not available by press time. The Hurricanes close out the regular season against Smithtown West (0-9) on Thursday, October 19, at 4:30 p.m.

“As a team, we are at a good skill level, and I hope we continue to improve that level as the season comes to a close. Everyone’s putting in all the effort you could ask for and then some, and that makes me feel confident where our game is at,” Jankowski said. “This is our last chance to go as far as we possibly can. We’ve all worked hard these past few years so that we would be able to be the best players possible. We want to finish up this year with no regrets, and I feel we have a strong chance to go far.”

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