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Nov 13, 2019 9:30 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

A Worthwhile Journey: Westhampton Beach Boys Volleyball Wins First Ever County Title

The 'Canes are pumped up after Blake Busking's kill.  RON ESPOSITO
Nov 14, 2019 10:48 AM

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

The often-used quote from American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson is poignant when it comes to the Westhampton Beach boys volleyball team. For years, the program struggled to win just a single match. It was forced to go two seasons without a junior varsity program, which can be crippling, and it was often overlooked amongst a sea of successful fall programs at Westhampton Beach.

Not anymore.

The Hurricanes broke through as a viable team last season, when they reached the postseason for the first time in 15 years. And that positive trend continued this season, culminating on Monday evening at Newfield High School when they defeated Hauppauge, 3-1, to win their first-ever Suffolk County Championship.

Although an exact date isn’t known when the varsity program began at Westhampton Beach, Jackie Reed, who has been leading the team as its head coach the past 11 years, said it was sometime in the early 1990s when Bruce Stiriz first started it.

Westhampton Beach will play the winner of the Nassau County Class B Final between Long Beach and Bethpage, which is played Friday, in the Long Island Championship on Tuesday, November 19, at Farmingdale State at 7 p.m.

Reed said earlier in the day on Monday that she checked out the team’s banner hanging up in the gym and it said only, “Divisions — 1998.”

“I said that would be pretty cool if we get to fill the banner. Today is going to be up there,” she said. “It’s surreal. I’ve always been here to watch the county final. All those county dinners that I’ve ran as a president, past president and that I’ve been to, you see [teams] up on the dais and you’re like, ‘I wish that’s me one day.’ But you never really realize that it could be you, and now it is.”

After taking the first game of Monday’s match, 25-22, the ’Canes trailed the Eagles, 7-1, to start the second game. A kill by sophomore Daniel Haber tied the match at 14, which opened the door for junior and Pepperdine-commit Ryan Barnett, who served multiple aces to give Westhampton Beach an 18-15 lead. The ’Canes eventually went on to win the second game, 25-19, and were in the driver’s seat to sweep the match in three.

But Hauppauge came into the match with some great fight in it, and it didn’t go down easily. The Eagles consistently defended Barnett and Haber’s booming hits and Alex Knopf’s ace late in the match ended up being the difference, leading to a 25-23 victory for Hauppauge and forcing a fourth set.

Westhampton Beach came out strong in fourth, using its middle blockers to defend and frustrate Hauppauge’s hitters. But the ’Canes late 24-19 lead evaporated quickly and the Eagles were able to tie the game at 24-24. They even took a 26-25 lead at one point before the ’Canes rattled off three consecutive points to win, 28-26, and clinch its first ever title.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s crazy,” senior Micah Terry said of winning the county championship and the program’s turnaround. “It’s like seeing it change before your eyes, losing season after losing season to just this amazing team, and it is a really good team. Everyone is playing for each other. This is great.”

“After all these years of playing with them, to finally be able to put something together like this, I just think it’s amazing,” senior Donovan Kerns said. “We’re all working so well together. It’s a lot of fun.”

Reed said she couldn’t pinpoint one person from Monday’s match who stood out because all of her players did so well. Both Barnett and Haber tied for the team lead with 15 kills. Barnett also had 14 digs and six aces. Senior libero Matt Lambert led the team with 15 digs, senior setter Blake Busking had 40 assists to go along with 10 digs, and junior Hank Scherer finished with 12 digs and nine kills.

Terry said that Reed had the team prepared once again.

“She prepares us so well for every game,” he said. “We go into every game, we know exactly what were going to see, we know exactly what we need to do to win. It helps a lot.”

As the team was getting on the bus to head to Selden on Monday, Reed sent a text to every single alumni she had a phone number for and thanked them.

“I just said we’re playing for the county final in a couple hours and this is because of you guys and for working hard and making us who we are today,” she explained. “They’re stepping out as a part of you today, so I wanted to thank you guys for that, and I had some really good responses immediately via text message.”

The players are confident going into next week’s Long Island Championship. Their coach said they need to continue to play as a unit.

“We are a good team, we’ve proven it. We need to continue to play as a group, and we need to have fun. They just need to enjoy the experience of this because not many [get to say] that they’ve gotten this far. Whether we win or lose, they know that they’re champions, they’ve proven it to the county, and they just have to always hold that in their hearts.”

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Congratulations Team Canes..and Jackie..
League, & County Championships come along rarely.
They come with many many challenges both on and off the court, field, or classroom.
These are youngsters who go above and beyond their given talent level as a result of exceeding expectations both with performance and commitment. Be reminded that opponents bring to the contest their best effort each time..none travel on busses to loose.
“Coach” has been personally “ ...more
By kahuna (70), Tampa on Nov 13, 19 6:48 PM