On Monday afternoon, the reigning PSAA Champion volleyball team returned to the court for the first time in 510 days, picking up right where they left off in the fall of 2019 with a 3-0 sweep of Long Island Lutheran. The team, which has established itself as one of the Bears’ most dominant programs over the last five years, completed a third consecutive undefeated league season in 2019 before taking the PSAA tournament crown. Due to volleyball’s high-risk designation according to New York State, the girls missed out on any fall competitions, but the PSAA was able to put together a spring season that gives the Bears a chance to keep their impressive streak alive.
The victory gave the Bears a 27th consecutive victory in league play, dating back to 2016, and marked our first spring volleyball match since a playoff vs. Shoreham-Wading River on May 19, 2001 when the traditional volleyball season occurred in the spring.
LuHi nabbed the match’s first point, but it would prove to be their only lead of the game as the Brook responded with nine unanswered points to take control. Eighth-grader Gillian Bernier took over the serve with the score tied at 1-1 and with a blistering strike, that produced three aces over eight consecutive points, devastated the Crusaders. Kills from Lilly Keegan and Ava McCormick and an Ella Middlekauff ace pushed the Bear lead to 17-7. Bernier and Niamh Scanlon each registered kills in quick succession for a 21-9 edge and a McCormick ace put the Brook on the brink of taking game one before a LuHi service error closed the scoring at 25-11.
In game two, Scanlon notched consecutive aces to establish a 2-0 Bear advantage. A point following a long rally and another Bernier ace nudged the lead to 5-2, but LuHi responded with a 7-2 run to take 9-7 lead and raise a cheer from the Crusader sideline. The Bears, with a reservoir of big match experience behind them, were unfazed as they reeled off seven consecutive points to recapture a lead they would not give back, thanks in part to consecutive aces from Lily Middlekauff, the second of which painted the back line. LuHi displayed their own mettle by refusing to wilt, closing the gap to 13-15, but a Bernier kill on the back line and a combined block from Scanlon and McCormick gave the Brook some breathing room at 17-13. LuHi would get no closer the rest of the game and another LuHi service error closed the Blue & White win at 25-16.
In game three, LuHi took an early 2-0 lead, but the Bears responded to take their first lead of the game at 5-4. A Lily Middlekauff ace and an Ella Middlekauff kill pushed the advantage to 7-4. After a LuHi point, a huge dig from Bernier keyed a Bear score and Lily Middlekauff followed with her fourth ace of the match to establish a 9-5 edge. Consecutive Keegan aces ran the lead out to 12-5, prompting a LuHi timeout. The Bear lead grew to as much as 15-6 following a Bernier kill and a McCormick block, but LuHi refused to go away, closing back to within 16-19 after a pair of runs. A spectacular, off-balance kill from Keegan provided some momentary breathing room at 20-16, but LuHi closed back to 18-21 before an Ella Middlekauff kill stemmed the tide. LuHi responded with three consecutive points to pull within 21-22, the closest they had been since the game was 5-4, but the Bears dug deep and scored the final three points, punctuated by a McCormick Kill and an Ella Middlekauff ace to close it out, 25-21. Though she did not factor into the scoring, Georgia Apazidis was indispensable as the libero, diving all over the court to dig kills out of the grave and absorbing some impressive LuHi serves.
The Bears are back in action this afternoon at Lawrence Woodmere Academy.