Westhampton Beach had the varied talent to get the win it needed.
Behind junior Ryan Barnett’s 16 kills, junior Hank Scherer’s 10, and sophomore Daniel Haber’s seven, the Hurricane boys volleyball team bested East Islip/Bayport in straight sets (25-18, 27-25, 25-22) to catapult it to the top of the standings among Division I’s Sachem North, Connetquot, Lindenhurst, and Northport.
“This is a big win for us,” said Barnett, who also finished with 15 digs and one ace. “They’ve been beating some good teams, and they’re below us. We lost to them last year, which was pretty disappointing.”
Westhampton (5-4 overall, 5-3 in division) broke out to an 8-4 lead in the first set as a first step to avenging that loss, thanks to five Barnett kills, two back-to-back twice.
“He’s a great player. He’s an aggressive player,” head coach Jackie Reed said. “He’s there to make everyone else better. He’s one of the guys that this team is going to rely on, and he’s been responding to figure out ways to make it happen. I’m happy with how he’s progressing.”
What’s special about Barnett and the rest of his teammates is they know the right times to attack with full force, when to just keep the ball playable, and when to go for dumps and tips. The Hurricanes also prepared knowing they needed this win — studying East Islip’s (3-5) sets based off what they’d seen in a prior tournament.
“The team could see how they were meshing, when something goes wrong where the mix-up is, and they dissected it themselves,” Reed said. “We knew the tip to the middle was completely open for them. I think we put on the matchup that we wanted.”
“We made sure we kept a big block against their top hitters, and protected against the dumps by their setter,” Barnett added.
Westhampton wasn’t without faults though, letting up six straight points, mainly on out-of-bounds spikes, before Scherer (who also had eight digs and three aces) put the set away on a tip.
“We worked really hard. Picking spots when we’re serving, keeping it aggressive at the net, talking in the back row, making sure our front hitters know where they’re going with the ball,” Scherer said. “We were playing smart, and not aggressive the entire time — keeping the ball in and waiting for them to make mistakes.”
That happened following senior setter Blake Busking’s (36 assists, 13 digs, one ace) tip to help the Hurricanes take the second set after a double-hit violation tied it at 24-all. Scherer had back-to-back aces in that set, and kills came from him, Barnett, Haber, and seniors Donovan Kerns and Luke Farnan.
“There’s a lot of versatility on this team,” Busking said. “And we were diving and moving all over the court. That takes heart. We know how to play with each other — have been playing together forever — so our chemistry is great.”
Scherer had three kills and another tip before Farnan kills (five total) sandwiched Barnett’s ace and an East Islip point on four Westhampton hits that put the Hurricanes out front 21-15. Again though, the home team broke down, letting up eight straight points this time before several Redmen errors and a Haber block iced it.
“Their game doesn’t come without errors, but they’re having fun, playing good volleyball, and doing the best they can, confidently,” Reed said. “We’ve talked about when to swing, when not to swing, when to play smart and when to just go for it.”
Kerns finished with seven digs, three kills, and one ace, and senior libero Matt Lambert had 12 digs, diving all over the court for the ball.
“He’s a phenomenal player without that experience,” Reed said of Lambert, comparing him to three travel players on the team. “It’s unbelievable. Since freshman year he’s been able to read, move, and make a play on something most kids can’t. He’s very intelligent, and he’s also super dedicated. Just having that combination really sets him apart. And he plays with all his heart.”
Between his saves and kills from guys across the court, the Hurricanes were fired up.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Barnett said of livening up his team. “I get a lot of good sets too, so that always makes me happy.”
Westhampton’s biggest challenge will come in the form of East Hampton (6-2). The Hurricanes host the Bonackers October 17 at 4:30 PM.
“This game was also very positive,” Barnett added. “We want to stay positive and keep these good passes up, because when we’re consistent, we’re pretty unbeatable.”