Underachieving could be an accurate way to describe both the Freeport and Uniondale girls’ volleyball teams, but the season is young and there’s a lot of action remaining.
Freeport returned just one starter from last year’s special conference championship run and came out firing against Uniondale Sept. 21, taking the first set by a comfortable 25-12 margin. However, the visiting Knights soon found a rhythm coach Dan Splendore has been telling them about for weeks.
Behind junior setter Katia Gomez’s 19 assists, senior Jeime Godinez’s 8 digs and 5 kills, and junior Anne Louis Jean’s 4 aces and 7 kills, Uniondale took the next three sets for its first win over the Red Devils in quite some time.
“I truly believe the motivation for the win was not one player on our roster had ever beaten Freeport before tonight,” Splendore said. “Freeport has been so strong. We have six seniors and they all finally beat them.”
Uniondale, which missed reaching the playoffs last fall by one win, improved to 2-4. The defeat dropped the Red Devils to 0-5.
The serving of freshman Madison Harris and solid overall play of senior Sejla Omeragic and sophomore Arianna Junious set the early tone for Freeport as it captured its first set of the campaign after four tough losses. The hosts led the second set 19-14 following a kill from sophomore Natalie Pickney, but the momentum swung soon after.
Junior Jada Scott’s two kills, one from senior Guerlande Salomon, and some fine passing and serving from sophomore Cindy Blanco helped ignite the Knights. They pulled even at 22 and then won a pivotal point that featured incredible defense from junior libero Daniella Rosales Guerrero. A missed Freeport serve gave Uniondale a 25-23 win and it never looked back.
Salomon served five straight points to open a third set that was full of runs but also ended in a runaway. Freeport closed the gap to 11-10 behind junior Khamiya Hudson’s efforts but it was all Knights thereafter as they scored 15 of the next 16 points to take the set 25-11.
“Our communication was a problem after the first set,” Freeport coach Lolita Beathea said. “I think we started celebrating too soon and we had too many girls have an off day at the same time. We’ll keep grinding away.”
The Red Devils led early in the fourth set, but Gomez, Godinez, Louis Jean and Blanco re-righted Uniondale’s ship. Gomez served four straight points midway through the set to build a 16-9 cushion. After Freeport scored the next four, the Knights answered with seven in a row and were on their way to a long-awaited victory over an opponent that beat them twice last season.
“We started slow but turned it around,” Splendore said. “I’ve been telling the girls they’re capable of this but they needed to see it for themselves. We’ve lost some games I knew we could win. This is a huge confidence builder.”