Throughout the season in practice, Long Beach’s girls’ volleyball team simulated playing in a fifth and decisive set with a coveted Nassau County title on the line. On Nov. 7, premonition became reality for the Lady Marines after they squandered four match points in the fourth set against defending Class A champion South Side at SUNY-Old Westbury.
“Going five turned out to be the last thing we wanted to do,” Long Beach’s Krista Heidenfelder said. “It’s tough mentally when you’re one point away from winning and then need to come up with 25 more.”
But seniors Heidenfelder, Justine Smith, Dakota O’Neill, Mary McDonagh, Perri Steiner and Julianna Zaharias, along with junior Alex Price and freshman Gabby Ayzenberg, persevered and brought home the program’s first-ever county championship with a 25-9, 18-25, 25-15, 26-28, 25-19 victory. Smith had 30 assists, O’Neill had 21 digs, and Price (nine), McDonagh (seven) and Steiner combined for 22 kills.
“It was such an emotional roller coaster,” said Long Beach coach Kerri Rehnback, who dropped to her knees after the final point and watched the top-seeded Lady Marines celebrate. “I told the girls how important it was to get a lead in the fifth set because we had to get momentum back,” she added. “We didn’t have a great serving match, but we served tough when we needed to and our defense put us over the top.”
After the teams split the first 14 points of the decisive set, Long Beach (17-1) took the lead for good on a kill by Ayzenberg. A five-point run keyed by Smith, McDonagh, and Steiner extended the advantage to 18-12, and each time No. 3 South Side (14-4) drew closer the Lady Marines found another gear. The margin was no less than four down the stretch.
“I thought our girls fought hard,” Lady Cyclones coach Cheryl Scalice said. “Looking at the entire match, we needed to play a little cleaner to win. We had more errors than we’re used to.”