Jackie Reed wandered around Westhampton Beach’s gymnasium in search of the boys volleyball banner.
After some scanning, the 11-year head coach found the near-empty flag, and saw it simply read: Division 1998.
“I looked up and thought, ‘It would be pretty cool if we get to fill the banner today,’” she said. “Now, it’s going to happen. And this is just the beginning of the journey.”
With a four-set win over Hauppauge Monday — 25-22, 25-19, 23-25, 28-26 — the Hurricanes secured the program’s first Suffolk County Division II title in the school’s first appearance in the championship game. Westhampton will face the winner of Friday’s Nassau final between Long Beach and Bethpage in the Long Island championship November 19 at Farmingdale State College.
“I’m in shock, amazed, so happy for this team,” junior hitter Ryan Barnett said November 11 at Newfield High School. “We had to stay strong with our hits because their blocks were pretty solid.”
Barnett led Westhampton with 15 kills, six aces, and 14 digs. The hard hitter started his scoring early with four kills and a block in the first-set win, and pulled the Hurricanes (11-6) back into a the second they started off down 8-2 in with a monstrous spike and back-to-back aces.
“I love to get a big swing off,” Barnett said. “And regardless of what happens I stay positive with my team.”
By Hauppauge’s (6-10) first timeout call, Westhampton was up 19-16, and junior Hank Scherer (nine kills, 12 digs) made it 21-18 with a kill. A short Hauppauge serve gave the Hurricanes the 2-0 lead.
Daniel Haber, who had 15 kills, seven digs, and four blocks, shined across all four sets. After Westhampton started the third set down 6-2, he was a tying machine to thwart any Hauppauge momentum, knotting things at 7 with a kill, 18 with a save, dig off his own block, and second block all in the same volley, and 19 with his last block of the set. Another kill gave the Hurricanes a 21-20 lead, their second since his first block put Westhampton ahead for the first time 14-13. Errors down the stretch, including a double hit, two out-of-bounds serves, and a bad serve receive gave the Eagles their first win.
“If we lose steam, we lose steam fast, so I was afraid after losing the third set that it was going to be a struggle to come back, but they kept on grinding and fought hard,” Reed said. “You can’t let up or play it safe, and I told them if we’re going to win this we’re going to win swinging and being aggressive.”
The attack was amped up in the fourth set and all eyes were on Barnett. After Haber’s push tied the set 4-all, his fake led to a successful and boisterous Barnett kill high above Hauppauge’s blockers, and the junior followed it up with back-to-back-to-back aces on hard serves deflected off the court for an 8-4 advantage. Haber put away seven spikes for points in the set. Kills also came from Scherer, and seniors Luke Farnan, Blake Busking, and Micah Terry.
“We realized they do a lot of tipping toward the back and push it down toward us, so we had to bring our defense in to push it back,” Haber said. “My setter [Blake Busking 40 assists and 10 digs] would also push me in a little bit so the blockers would have to move in, and I was able to roll the line, give them ball to them so they can mess up.”
Ahead 24-19, Hauppauge staged a late rally and eventually edged ahead 26-25, but the Hurricanes kept their composure, tying the set on a Haber kill and taking the lead on a Scherer spike before a Hauppauge error after a Scherer block sealed the deal.
Haber was in awe of what his team was able to accomplish, leaping into the air, arms raised high above his head as the ball hit the floor for the final time.
“I can’t describe the feeling. It’s just amazing,” he said. “We’ve worked so hard for the past two years, and it finally paid off. And we’re going to go far — I know it.”
Barnett said he’s ready for the next historic challenge.
“What we’ve done with this program — we’re so hyped,” Barnett said. “We’re ready to compete.”