Even with two sets in the bag against 17-time defending Nassau Class AA girls’ volleyball champion Massapequa on Sept. 28, Long Beach coach Kerri Rehnback couldn’t relax.
“You can never feel safe against Massapequa because they can turn a match around in a heartbeat,” Rehnback said.
The Lady Marines quickly lost the first six points of the third set, but they rallied and completed a sweep with a thrilling 25-23 victory in front of a spirited home crowd. They took the first two sets 25-17, 25-19 on the way to beating the Lady Chiefs for the first time since 2002.
“We’ve taken sets from Massapequa before, but we just couldn’t beat them,” Rehnback said. “We had a lot of girls contribute and they showed they can handle adversity with how they battled back in the first and third sets.”
Junior setter Grace Rosenberg had 29 assists, junior hitter Emma McGovern added 13 kills and 7 digs, junior Kathleen Verastegui had 14 digs, and senior Paulina Cardona led a balanced offensive effort with 8 kills to lead Long Beach (5-0), which dug out of a 12-7 hole in the opening set.
“It’s a very satisfying win but we don’t want it to be the highlight of the season,” Rehnback said. “Winning the county championship is our goal and this was a step in the right direction. We have to beat them in November to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
Of Massapequa’s 17 county titles, Rehnback said: “at the very minimum half have come against Long Beach.” The Lady Marines competed in Class A from 2011-15, winning a county championship in 2013, and didn’t face Massapequa during those five seasons. “They probably beat us about 25 times in a row,” Rehnback said. “This is big because it gives our girls confidence they can do it again.”
Long Beach’s rotation features a mix of returning starters and newcomers. Rosenberg and Verastegui earned All-County honors in 2016 and run the show on offense and defense, respectively. “Grace has the best hands in the county,” Rehnback said of Rosenberg, a three-year starter.
Defense is the team’s strength, the coach noted, with Verastegui and seniors Kelly McDonagh and Paulina Czartoryski leading the charge. “We take a lot of pride in defense,” Rehnback said. “We pay great attention to detail on serve-receive and it’s hard to put a ball away against us.”
McGovern is Long Beach’s top point getter, while Cardona is hitting at a high percentage on the outside. Senior Sarah Price brings a strong topspin serve and is a steady presence opposite Cardona, junior Lexie Correia makes things happen at the net, and sophomore Maggie Swegler, last year’s starting setter on the JV, has fit in nicely on the right side.
Long Beach, which travels to Massapequa for a rematch on Oct. 26 at 4:45 p.m., hosts its annual tournament this Saturday (8 teams will compete) beginning at 9 a.m.