Westhampton Beach’s boys volleyball team was at a loss for words Tuesday night.
“I’m speechless,” Ryan Barnett said. “There’s nothing better than this,” Matt Lambert said. “This is indescribable,” Daniel Haber said.
It was the Hurricanes’ (12-6) closest match of the season, and the boys came out on top to continue a string of historic firsts. With a 3-2 win over Long Beach November 19 — 25-21, 25-27, 25-20, 17-25, 15-12 — Westhampton won its first Long Island Division II title in the program’s inaugural appearance in the championship game, and earns the school’s first state tournament berth.
“Six years of hard work has finally paid off, but we’ve still got work to do on Saturday,” senior Luke Farnan said. “What we’ve done for this program is amazing and I can’t thank our alumni enough — our fans, our coaches, [Athletic Director Kathy] Masterson. This is awesome.”
His three kills and a block in the decisive fifth set were crucial down the stretch. Farnan (eight kills, five blocks) scored back-to-back kills bookending a botched block for a 14-12 advantage before Barnett (18 kills) slammed down the match point.
“I knew I had a pretty good matchup with them, so I told Blake [Busking] (51 assists, 15 digs) to set me a couple times,” Farnan said. “I was just trying to help my team.”
Barnett started off strong with five kills in the first-set win, and five in the second, but Long Beach (17-5) put together a series of blocks on his spikes. It didn’t stop the junior though, who began tipping over the blockers for easy points behind them.
“From my perspective it’s all mental,” he said. “We had to stay positive and keep pushing through.”
Head coach Jackie Reed said over the course of the playoffs her team has pulled out a situational play six or seven times where her team is down 3-8, strategizing how to bounce back. In the fifth set though, the Hurricanes didn’t need it.
“This time we were up,” she said, smiling. “We knew that if we kept on pushing like we were down it’d pan out in our favor. We planned very well. They were as prepared as they could be.”
Barnett’s kill put Westhampton out front 8-5 in the fifth, and the teams switched sides. But after dropping a long second set, and falling behind 18-8 on a Marines 10-point tare, the Hurricanes knew securing the final few points was going to be anything but easy. Seeing how the rest of the sets had gone, Haber knew there was only one way to win it.
“It was all momentum,” the sophomore said. “Whoever had the momentum was going to win that game.”
Haber (20 kills, two blocks, one ace), who racked up a team-high six kills in the fourth-set loss, slammed down three in the fifth. His second put Westhampton out front 11-8, but a Long Beach kill and soft hit that rolled over the net put the Marines right back in it. Junior Hank Scherer (8 kills, 14 digs) dumped the ball into a hole at mid-court before Farnan’s back-to-back kills.
“They’re a really consistent team and play a lot of players, so we just had to keep up with their pace and set the tone for each set,” senior Matt Lambert (18 digs) said.
His older brother Tom had played for the team, and Lambert thought back to the 7-8, 5-11, and 2-16 seasons that followed this one as motivation for him to dive all over the court to dig out some big saves to keep the Hurricanes in volleys.
“I just didn’t want my season to end,” he said. “My brother played here for four years and nothing much happened, but they set the stage for us. It’s nuts. This is spectacular.”
Reed said the team’s goal was to win counties, but now, Westhampton is taking a trip up to Albany Saturday, competing in the state semifinals at the Capital Center November 23 beginning at 8:30 AM.
“We’ve come so far,” Haber said. “This whole season we’ve been working so hard trying to get to this point, and it’s finally paid off.”
Barnett said regardless of the outcome he knows one thing for certain: “We’re going to have fun, enjoy the ride.”
But his head coach knows some of the upstate competition, and thinks her Hurricanes have a good chance.
“I potentially see us coming out as state champs, which is 100 percent unbelievable,” Reed said, excitedly chuckling through an ear-to-ear grin. “From little old Westhampton.”