Logan Gurney gave all he could in a game-deciding fifth set. And the East Hampton outside hitter couldn’t help walking off the court smiling. That’s because his ace (two total) and two kills (13 total) in a 15-11 victory helped his team over the Hauppauge hump.
“We really played different, picked up a ton of balls we usually wouldn’t, and that’s because we’re moving our feet,” the senior said. “We should’ve taken it to five sets, but it’s great seeing us come back and see it all come together at the end.”
The Eagles (1-4) have a long streak of bringing down the Bonackers. In 2016, Hauppauge edged East Hampton 3-2 in the first round of the Division II playoffs, in 2018, a 3-0 sweep in the semifinals sent the boys packing. And unlike previous seasons, the Bonackers (4-2 overall, 4-1 in league) were up 2-0 — 25-22, 25-16 — for the first time. That’s because Clark Miller was pulling out all the stops.
The senior do-to-all middle had a .552 hitting percentage, racked up 17 kills; made five blocks, four solo; and had three digs.
“It’s great to come out with a win after losing so many years in a row, especially in playoffs. It’s really special,” Miller said. “Boosting the team with what I do is great — I love energizing everyone — but I just do what I can to win the game.”
The middle hitter made three kills and two blocks in the first set to give the Bonackers early assurance, and two kills, a block, and a pretty sweet tip in the second.
“Clark Miller is a very prominent part of team,” senior setter Morgan Segelken (43 assists, 11 digs) said. “He’s the force of our offense. We use the other guys as outlets, but he’s the main force.”
The only problem, Segelken said, was his team’s attitude. His teammates agreed.
“We got cocky,” Miller said. “And then when we found ourselves on a losing streak, we put our heads down. It’s something we can’t do in the future.”
East Hampton was up 14-5, and then 19-10, and 21-12, only to have Hauppauge close within 24-23 before the Bonackers put away the first set on a Henry Garneau (11 digs, four blocks, one solo) kill. The boys were also up 8-1 in the second only to have the Eagles knot the set at 12 and 16 before East Hampton went on a nine-point scoring streak. The third set (25-22), which had four ties, remained close most of the way through, but in fourth, where the Eagles broke out to a 12-4 lead early, Hauppauge went on tares of 5-0 and 8-4 to win it 25-15 and force the fifth.
Head coach Josh Brussell likened the victory to a 3-2 win over Commack September 5.
“It was resiliency. We realized we could do this,” he said. “They need to realize they can hit, they can swing. We’re a good team, and people are going to see that. We just need to play like we know we’re a good team and have the confidence that we’re good enough to win.”
“We need to keep a level head and keep pushing,” Gurney added. “We do have problems when we get down, let the other team go on a run, and that’s what we’re trying to change. Hopefully when we get it together so we can do some great things.”
Miller said he saw the signs of greatness as the game wore down, noting his team’s persistence and scrappiness — racing and diving all over the court to make saves. Junior Tucker Genovesi had 30 service receptions, including 22 digs; junior Luc Campbell had nine kills, seven digs, and a solo block; and senior Cole Jowers secured three kills and three blocks, two solo.
Brussell said every day his Bonackers — 10 of which are returners, most seniors who have been playing together since they were freshmen — are taking a step in the right direction.
“It’s an uphill battle for us,” Brussell said. “Going 4-1, everyone is going to know we’re the guys to beat. We have targets on our backs. We’ve got a lot of expectations that people are going to put on us, and we are going to put on ourselves, so we have to improve on something every day. It’s never over. The guys know that.”