Baldwin had an uphill battle on its hands in the Nassau County Class AA girls’ volleyball championship match against 12-time defending champion and top-seeded Massapequa on Nov. 5, but that doesn’t mean the Lady Bruins made things easy for the Lady Chiefs. Even after dropping the first two games (25-15, 25-13), No. 2 Baldwin (11-4 overall) raced out to an early 10-1 lead in the third game before Massapequa turned the tide and rebounded for a 25-20 win and sweep for their 14th consecutive county championship.
“I’m extremely proud of all that the team accomplished regardless of falling short of the ultimate goal,” Lady Bruins coach Natalie Hamilton, a freshman on the Baldwin team the last time the Lady Chiefs didn’t win a County title in 2000. “We cannot be upset because we hit so many milestones.”
Advancing to the County Championship Round in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-2000 — the Lady Bruins last captured the title in ’99 — Baldwin avenged one of its regular season losses with a four-set win over No. 3 Port Washington in the semifinals on Nov. 1 (25-22, 25-16, 11-25, 25-18). Senior middle hitter Jessica Pulis had eight kills and five aces, while junior outside hitter Bridgette Walsh, an All-County honoree this season, had eight kills and 15 digs. Junior All-Class AA setter Keira Knauer chipped in with 20 assists and three aces. “We played better than we had in the two [meetings] prior with Port Washington,” Hamilton said of her well-rounded unit, which also included an All-Class AA campaign from junior libero Erica Ackerman. “We had a better gameplan with our defense and adjusted it according to the tendencies of the last two games.
“Everybody chipped in that game, there wasn’t one girl
The Lady Bruins steamrolled No. 7 Hicksville (25-4, 25-3, 25-10) in the quarterfinals on Oct. 30, behind 10 kills and three blocks from All-County middle hitter Loren McKenzie and eight aces from senior Zhane Warthen. After improving one spot on last season’s No. 3 seed, Baldwin jumped up to No. 2 based on a second-place finish during the regular season and the strong play carried over. “We came out ready to play and rock the gym,” Hamilton said, noting that last season, her team upset Hicksville, then seeded No. 2 to advance to the County finals. “We were really excited for the postseason, and I think it showed in the scores.”
Ranked No. 2 during the preaseason, the Lady Bruins certainly lived up to the billing and along the way, knocking off Massapequa in a game for the first time since 2005 and capturing first place in its own tournament for the first time ever.