Exactly one year ago today, the girls’ volleyball team walked off the court at Long Island Lutheran’s Visscher Gymnasium heartbroken after a stunning loss in the PSAA Championship. Today they returned to that same patch of hardwood but this time left it with what they came for: a PSAA title.
In the opening game, Heschel scored the first point with a kill, but the Bears responded with five straight points, highlighted by kills from Bekah Detwiler and Ava McCormick, to grab a lead they would not relinquish. A Nadia Hall kill pushed the lead to 7-2, prompting an early timeout from the Heat, but the break in play did little to stem the Bear assault as Elizabeth Robbins dropped in an ace on the very next point. Two more kills from Hall pushed the advantage to 12-4. A Niamh Scanon ace, a Hall block, and a Shannuel Lamptey kill followed as the Bear lead swelled to 15-4. A Natalie Stefaniuk ace left the Brook up 22-9 and another Robbins ace put the Bears on the precipice at 24-10 en route to the 25-11 win.
In game two, the Bears took an early 5-2 lead thanks to a Lamptey spike and another Stefaniuk ace. The Heat battled back to knot it at 5-5, but the Brook countered for four consecutive points with a Detwiler kill, a Scanlon ace, a Hall block, and another Scanlon ace that clipped the sideline to retake a 12-7 lead. After a timeout, Heschel changed the tide by absorbing the Bears’ hits, extending points, and grinding out several long rallies to pull within 14-13. A Detwiler kill moved the lead to 15-13 and the Bears looked poised to extend the advantage to three, but the Heat deflected two hard blows and won the point to ignite a 5-1 run that left them up 18-16.
That point in game two felt eerily similar to last year’s final in which the Bears took game one but let a lead slip away in game two on the way to a 1-3 loss to Long Island Lutheran. Today, the Bears showed their championship mettle by closing the game with an 11-3 run to seize control of the match. After Heschel surrendered a point by touching the net, Detwiler tied the game with an ace at 18-18. Hall followed with a sky-scraping spike to give the Bears the lead back. Heschel would pull even again at 20-20, but Lamptey scored a fortuitous kill on a service return then followed with another kill for a 22-20 lead. Heschel then failed to return a Scanlon serve before surrendering an ace to the freshman as the Bears took a 24-20 lead. A double-touch on Heschel closed game two, 25-21, as the Blue and White took a commanding 2-0 edge.
There was little drama in game three as the Bears raced out to a 7-1 lead, highlighted by aces from Leslie Kang and Stefaniuk. A Hall kill found the right sideline for a 9-3 lead, Detwiler scored an ace that curled over the net to move the advantage to 11-5, and McCormick buried a kill in the back left corner as the lead swelled to 18-8. Another Robbins ace moved the needle to 21-10 before Detwiler completed the coronation with an ace that closed the game at 25-11 and sent the Blue Fan Group spilling onto the court in a cathartic celebration three years in the making.
It was fitting that Detwiler, Robbins, and Kang each had a moment in the final game, the trio at the core of the team for the last four years. As freshmen they helped the team to an improbable and historic run to the 2016 Suffolk County Championship and became mainstays during the most successful era in volleyball history, a run that included three consecutive undefeated regular season championships and a string of 26 straight league victories. But their careers were not without heartbreak. Losses in the last two championships would have torn at the fabric of most teams, but this group weathered the adversity and brought the team back to the promised land.
Scanlon finished with 5 aces and 14 assists, Detwiler notched 8 kills and 3 aces, Hall had 5 kills and 2 blocks, and McCormick added 6 kills. Robbins was our reliable anchor in the middle with 45 digs. After the match, Detwiler was named the East Division Regular Season MVP while Robbins earned Tournament MVP honors.
The Bears are back in action on Tuesday in the opening round of the NYSAIS Tournament. They will find out their opponent over the weekend.