Days after clinching the B1 conference championship, Long Beach boys’ volleyball earned its spot in the Class B quarterfinals last Friday following a hard-fought three-set victory over a previously undefeated Clarke team.
Immediately falling behind big in the opening set, Long Beach coach Bill Gibson was left with little choice but to call a timeout to allow his team to regroup. “You never want to have to call the first timeout,” said Gibson. “But we closed the gap.”
Smooth serving, notably from junior Hunter Bloomer, helped Long Beach helped erase the deficit, and though they fell behind again late in the set, the Marines managed to squeak out a 25-23 win. Respective wins of 25-9 and 25-22 in sets two and three completed the sweep. Long serving streaks by junior Dylan Goldstein – who finished with five aces – and senior Jessie Thornton were among the keys to the victory.
The Marines hosted Calhoun in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, after the Herald went to press.
The opening playoff match was emblematic of Long Beach’s season to this point. Though they got off to a 7-0 start, it was despite some inconsistencies and technical mistakes that needed to be cleaned up, said Gibson.
And with the toughest part of the schedule looming as the calendar turned to October, the coach knew his team might be in for a bit of awakening. The Marines promptly dropped three of their next four matches, including a five-set thriller against a strong Kennedy team that came down to the final point in the fifth set.
From then on, Gibson said his team’s resolve hardened. “We started to focus on the little things,” said Gibson. And ever since, “these guys have worked their tails off.”
They ended the season playing their strongest volleyball of the season, winning six of seven en route to a 12-4 record and a conference championship – their only loss coming in yet another five-set heartbreaker to Kennedy.
As their performance progressed throughout the season, Gibson said the Marines have set higher goals. Initially happy to take home a county championship, the coach said they now have their sights set higher. “The goal is to get to Albany to be in that state semifinal and final,” he said.
The biggest difference in the second half of the season, Gibson said, was consistency, bolstered by strong play from Goldstein, senior Dom Cieleski at setter, and senior hitters Evan Michaels and Brian Corrigan. He also praised the play of Bloomer on the outside, calling him the “glue to the system as far as keeping us in plays and going on runs when we need them.”
Junior Dan Hartman, who as an outside hitter on junior varsity last year moved to middle this year, has been the team’s most improved player, Gibson said.
A victory on Wednesday would put the Marines one game away from reaching the county championship, and potentially, in a rematch against Kennedy – something Gibson said his team would relish. “We would love to play them in the final,” he said. “That would be the best representation of Nassau County, if our teams are playing each other.”