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Oct 8, 2019 9:58 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Boys Volleyball Program Is Surging After Some Lean Years

Senior Donovan Kerns digs a ball on the backline for the Hurricanes. DREW BUDD
Oct 9, 2019 3:37 PM

It’s extremely difficult for any varsity program in any sport to deal with not having a junior varsity team. The effects of not having an organized group that one day hopes to make it to the big varsity stage are long lasting and can sometimes cripple, if not permanently destroy, a program.When Westhampton Beach cut its JV boys volleyball team, for not only one but two years, varsity head coach Jackie Reed refused to give up and, in a sense, give in. She could have easily forgotten about having young players on her team and just coached the upperclassmen, but instead, Reed took on the young players who wanted to play and had one large varsity squad. After the regular varsity practice, Reed would hold back the freshmen and have their “JV” practice for another hour and a half.

“It took a toll,” Reed admitted, “but I feel like it’s worked out.”

It certainly has.

After reaching the postseason for the first time since 2004 last year, the Hurricanes came into this season as the top-ranked Division II team in Suffolk County, and they have carried that success over to this season, most recently defeating larger schools in East Islip and Walt Whitman to be seventh in the county, between large and small schools, at 5-3 in division play, 6-4 overall, with 120.89 power points.

Reed said that getting the DII top seed at the start of the season was nice but that this season thus far has been all about proving they belong.

“I think it’s something to prove, not only to us but to everyone else, because we have been working hard and they have been working on their skills all offseason, so to kind of get that acknowledgment is great, but the other thing is then you have to play like that,” she said.

The upperclassmen on this year’s team fondly remember seasons of going 1-15 and are proud of how far the team has come. Some even pointed, themselves, to the reintroduction of the JV program that started to turn things around.

“All of our seniors, I think everybody, has played on JV, for at least one year. It’s really helped,” senior Matt Lambert said after the Canes 3-0 victory over East Islip on Thursday, October 3. “When my brother played, which was probably four years ago, the team went like 1-15. It was so hard to watch, but now it’s really good. It’s been really cool because we’ve been playing since middle school, us seniors, so it’s been six years [of] working hard [and] trying to get better every day.”

Lambert had 12 digs in the win over East Islip, Blake Busking had 36 assists and 13 digs, Hank Scherer had 10 kills, Daniel Haber had seven kills, and Ryan Barnett led the Canes in both kills (16) and digs (15).

Barnett has become the pride of Westhampton Beach and its resurgence. The junior has committed to continue his volleyball career at Pepperdine University, a highly respected Division I program out of Malibu, California. And to think if there were still no JV program, where he, or the Canes for that matter, would be.

“I remember when I was a freshman on JV and I looked up to all of these seniors and I was like, ‘Wow, I want to be like that one day,’” Barnett said. “It’s cool to be in the position to help these guys make it to counties and maybe bring the title home.”

That’s what it’s all about this season, bringing home a county title, and then some. After a tougher first part of the schedule, the Canes will use the second half of their schedule, where they face more Division II teams, to work in implementing a few new things and tune themselves up before postseason play begins.

“We have to stay positive, and our main thing right now is stay in system, because when we’re in system we’ve got Dan, we have Blake, who is a great setter, we have all those guys. Once we’re in system we’re pretty unbeatable.”

Reed and the rest of the Canes are proud of where the program has come from and hope to keep things moving in the right direction.

“They’re excited but they’re humble about being there and wanting to work hard for the program,” Reed said of her current crop of players. “A couple of kids who have graduated come back during preseason to watch us and see how we’re doing, and sometimes if we’re at the beach they’ll come and play with them just to see how the actual program has progressed … that really touches my heart. We started with very little and then all of a sudden our JV was cut. We got the JV back and it kept on going, so to see them interacting with our now seniors and juniors that are pretty good and our sophomores, it’s nice to see how it’s advanced, and I can only hope that success breeds success and it just stays consistent and that the people on JV get the bug and keep on working hard to get up there.”

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