On Wednesday afternoon, the girls’ volleyball team opened the season with a thrilling 3-2 non-league victory over Longwood in front of a boisterous crowd.
The Lions, a Class AA school that competes in Suffolk County’s League III, flexed their muscles in first set with their defensive blocking and offensive firepower, fueled by a clear height advantage at the net. They took an early 13-6 lead, but the Bears rattled off five straight points, spurred by a Niamh Scanlon ace, to pull within 11-13. From there, Longwood had a five-point spurt of their own to get some distance on the way to a 25-16 opening win. The Bears got their footing in second set and held a 16-15 lead after a Lion serve found the net, but Longwood tied the score on the next point and did not trail again on the way to a 25-21 win.
Up two sets in the best 3-out-of-5 match, Longwood looked to uneventfully finish off the Bears, but instead they found a team with renewed fire despite the large deficit. Ava McCormick began with a kill to grab an early lead. The Bear advantage grew to 10-5 after a Sandy Tao ace, but the Lions stormed back to take a 13-11 lead. A Lilly Keegan kill, an Ella Middlekauff ace, and a McCormick block gave the Brook a three-point surge and a 14-13 advantage. Longwood again had an answer, scoring two straight to retake the lead, but another McCormick block and a Scanlon ace gave the Brook a 16-15 edge they would not relinquish. The key point of the set came after Longwood pulled back within 18-19. After a lengthy rally with big digs on both sides, Scanlon scored a kill to bring the Blue Fan Group to its feet with a roar we haven’t heard at a volleyball match since before the pandemic. Another McCormick block followed before Longwood found the net for a 22-18 Bear lead. Longwood snatched the next two points, but Keegan slammed a kill out of bounds off of Longwood’s blockers before the Lions sent a ball out for a 24-20 Blue & White margin. After Longwood scored a kill, they appeared to send a ball long, but it was called in to pull them back within 22-24. The Bears shook it off and Keegan rifled a kill to close the set, 25-22.
Scanlon gave the Brook a 1-0 lead on a kill and The Brook never trailed from there in a decisive fourth set win. Keegan followed a kill with an ace off the deck, giving the Bears a 7-4 advantage and prompting a Longwood timeout. Out of the break, Keegan served up another ace and it was clear from that point on that the Lions were powerless to slow the Blue & White momentum. As the Bears exerted pressure on both offense and defense, Longwood started to unravel with errors. Three serves found the net in set four along with four kill attempts as McCormick, Scanlon, Middlekauff, and Gigi Bernier exerted constant front line pressure. The Bear offense had no such trouble as a McCormick spike and a Keegan kill helped push the lead to 17-11. A Bernier kill preceded a pair of errors from the Lions before Keegan served up her third ace of the game for a 24-12 advantage. Bernier finished off the set, 25-13, by firing a shot that ricocheted off a Lion and into the ceiling for a resounding kill that brought a packed Swanson to its feet.
The match moved to a decisive fifth set with a winning target of 15 points. Scanlon charged up the crowd with a first point ace that pinballed around the Lion defense. Consecutive points gave Longwood its first lead since 14-15 in set three, but another service error, a shot out of bounds, and a Keegan kill vaulted the Brook back in front, 4-2. Three straight points gave the Lions the edge again, and they still led at 5-6 before the Bears engineered what proved to be a decisive four-point surge. Kills from Keegan and Middlekauff and a dunk shot from Scanlon left the Brook up 9-6 and they would not trail again. Longwood got one back, but the Bears scored the next six points to close out the victory. Another Keegan kill started the game-ending run and a Middlekauff block moved the Bears within a point of victory, but it was Georgia Apazidis’ dig that finally broke the Lions’ backs.
Trailing 7-12, Longwood loaded up and fired a shot that looked destined for hardwood until Apazidis dove for a massive dig that sailed over the Lions’ back line and into the deck for the point of the match. Longwood’s last shot sailed out of bounds to give the Brook a 15-7 win and send the Blue Fan Group spilling out onto the court to celebrate their 34th consecutive home victory.
The Bears return to the court this evening when they open PSAA play against Martin Luther.