Immediately following its straight-set loss to Connetquot in the 2017 Long Island title match, the Long Beach girls set a goal. They vowed to get back, to win the match, and make the trek upstate for the first time in the history of the volleyball program.
Little did the Lady Marines know that knocking off Commack for the school’s first Long Island championship on Nov. 11 would be just a step along their journey to the ultimate title. With a hard-fought 25-23, 26-24, 25-22 win over Victor (Ontario County), Long Beach brought home the New York State Class AA championship on Sunday afternoon in Glens Falls.
Fittingly, the Lady Marines were led by their three senior captains. Outside hitter Emma McGovern had 30 kills, setter Grace Rosenberg added 31 assists, and libero Kathleen Verastegui pitched in with 28 digs to lead the way. McGovern picked up tournament most valuable player honors. The win capped off a perfect 21-0 season for Long Beach. Victor finished at 21-1.
“The word that comes to mind is euphoria,” Long Beach coach Kerri Rehnback said. “It was our mission to take Long Island, but once we did our research and looked at film, I knew that we weren’t just going to states to compete. We were going up there to win. The girls put in so much hard work and were so dedicated. Everything came to fruition. It just doesn’t seem real.”
If there was any uncertainty about Long Beach’s chances to earn state supremacy, all doubts were erased when it knocked off a strong Shenendehowa team 25-23, 29-27 in the first round of pool play last Saturday. The Marines punched their ticket to the finals by cruising past Pine Bush 25-16, 25-14.
“You know, getting off Long Island is no easy chore,” Rehnback said. “It took until the middle of the week to put that win behind us. When the girls saw tapes of the teams we’d be playing, the mindset changed. They knew that winning the whole thing was possible.”
Beating Victor, a solid team laden with ultra-talented freshmen and sophomores, would be no easy task. With size at the net and incredible defense on the back row, the Blue Devils presented a challenge.
The Lady Marines got out to a comfortable 21-13 lead in the opening set, but saw Victor rally before McGovern put the set away with a kill. After trailing for much of the middle set, Long Beach, thanks in part to strong play at the net from Maggie Swegler and a timely ace by freshman Anna Moller, took a commanding 2-0 lead.
The final set was nip and tuck, but Rosenberg put the state title on ice by crushing an ace just inside the baseline to set off the celebration.
“I was hungry for the ace,” Rosenberg said. “Placing it there is kind of my signature weapon. We left it all out on the court. This feeling is better than anything. Things couldn’t have ended any better than winning a state championship with my best friends.”