Lady Marines in the mix

Split key matches with Wantagh and South Side


Long Beach’s girls’ volleyball team came away from its toughest week of the season with mixed results, beating defending Nassau Class A champion South Side in four sets after losing to previous three-time defending champ Wantagh in three sets.

“We split, which was OK,” Lady Marines coach Kerri Rehnback said. “Wantagh beat us with its tempo and net play, but we came back and played a strong match against South Side.

“We’re in such a competitive conference,” she added. “The goal is to beat all the teams ranked below us twice, and win some against teams ranked above us.”

After sweeping Hewlett last Friday 25-14, 25-7, 25-21 behind senior libero Dakota O’Neill’s 26 digs to begin the second half of the Conference A-I schedule, the Lady Marines stood at 6-1 with five matches remaining.

O’Neill’s energy goes a long way, Rehnback said, and she also possesses a tremendous jump serve. “Dakota’s aggressive and involved in every play,” she said. “She’s got a low center of gravity and covers a lot of court.”

While O’Neill leads the defense, the offense runs through senior setter Justine Smith. An ankle injury, suffered in practice on the off day — Oct. 1 — between the Wantagh and South Side matches, nearly kept Smith out of the latter. Not only did she suit up, but she dished out 26 assists to lead a 25-23, 25-19, 17-25, 25-23 win over the Lady Cyclones. “Justine was great for us last year, and she picked up where she left off,” Rehnback said. “She manages the offense really well and spreads the ball around.”

In the victory over Hewlett, Rehnback said all of Long Beach’s hitters had 15 attempts or more. Senior Krista Heidenfelder and freshman Gabby Ayzenberg are the starting outside hitters, seniors Perri Steiner and Mary McDonagh comprise the starting middle, and junior Alex Price does damage from the right side.

“We don’t have anyone we count on constantly,” Rehnback said. “We have a balanced attack.”

Heidenfelder, a captain along with O’Neill and Smith, is “ultra-consistent,” the coach said, and always plays a strong match. Ayzenberg, who performed at a high level for the JV team last fall, jumps well and isn’t afraid to swing, Rehnback said. 

Steiner and McDonagh compliment each other well in the middle. Steiner is a defensive force, thanks to a combination of size and improved quickness, Rehnback said. Steiner, a forward/center on the basketball court, had seven kills and four blocks against South Side. McDonagh, a point guard, lacks the height of most middles but makes up for it with her leaping ability, quickness and athleticism. 

Price, who had nine kills against South Side, has good height and hitting ability, and senior Julianna Zaharias provides a defensive spark and accurate serving. Juniors Emma Cohen and Rebecca Idson boost the defense and serving, respectively.

The Lady Marines will try to beat Manhasset for a second time when they travel for a 5 p.m. start on Thursday.