Volleyers Blow 2-1 Lead In Loss to Hurricanes

Lady Bonakers Volleyball
Though the Bonackers had a few moments to celebrate on Oct. 12, ultimately it was the Hurricanes that celebrated victory. Jack Graves

    Kathy McGeehan, who coaches East Hampton High School’s girls volleyball team, had circled Oct. 12 on her calendar — the date of a return match with one of Bonac’s chief rivals, Westhampton Beach.
    In a four-hour match, the Hurricanes had beaten the Bonackers in five a month ago in Westhampton, and indeed they did so again here this past week, benefitting from strong serving and passing. East Hampton’s serving and passing, by contrast, were not good, particularly so after the team had gone up 2-1 in the match, an edge that a large hometown crowd had hoped the players would capitalize on.
    When later McGeehan was asked, “What happened?” she turned the question back upon her questioner. “What do you think happened?”
    “It just seemed like, all of a sudden, they were in total disarray.”
    The coach, in reply, mentioned several probable factors, foremost among them the lackluster serving and passing. “When we serve and pass well we win. Aggressive serving and passing are the foundations of our game. When we don’t serve and pass well, we don’t win. Also, I think we were mentally exhausted after coming back from two-down two days before to beat Harborfields. We had our setter [Raya O’Neal, a sophomore, one of the top ones in the county] running all over the place. And then too, we’re young.”
    The match began well enough: O’Neal’s serving treated East Hampton to a 10-9 lead before the visitors sided out. Then things went back and forth a bit before Maria Montoya, who came off the bench with the score 15-12 in Bonac’s favor, wowed the crowd with some of the strongest serving seen here. By the time her stint had ended 7 points later, a stint that included three aces and a kill each by Charlotte Wiltshire and Melissa Perez, Montoya and her teammates had taken control of the game.
    Unfortunately, that 7-0 skein on the way to a 25-16 win was to prove to be the girls’ finest moment that afternoon.
    Westhampton bounced back to take the second game by a similar margin, though it was East Hampton’s turn again in game three, a game which began to go the Bonackers’ way from 9-9 on. Wiltshire, abetted by several Hurricane errors and an ace, served East Hampton to 13-10, after which Westhampton’s libero, Jamie Devivo, served wide for 14-10 and Melanie Mackin tipped over two would-be blockers at the net for 15-10.
    Going down the stretch, Jenna Budd, a ninth grader who had come off the bench, served an ace, Katla Thorsen and Perez made fine digs and Wiltshire notched two thunderous kills. With Lydia Budd — Jenna’s twin — serving, O’Neal went over the top for the 25-15 final.
    At that point, the match seemed to be going Bonac’s way, but volleyball is a game of dizzying momentum swings, and, as in other team sports, errors rather than winners often prove to be decisive.
    Of Westhampton’s first 16 points in game four, 10 were attributable to East Hampton errors, two being netted serves. East Hampton was down by four at that point, prompting McGeehan to call for a timeout, during which she told her charges, “It seems like we’re hanging around and seeing if Westhampton is going to give it to us.”
    The errors continued after play resumed, however. At 21-17, Mackin was double-blocked at the net, and though Kristen Polan served long for 22-18, Montoya, who had enjoyed that great run in the first game, followed suit, for 23-18. A Mackin tip got the ball and a point back, but, with O’Neal serving, Wiltshire was called for “double contact” on a set and her subsequent netted kill closed out the visitors’ 25-19 match-tying win.
    The double-contact and carry calls, as well as sloppy passing, continued in the decisive fifth. Down 7-3, following an ace by Westhampton’s Alexa Smith (her fourth winner in what was to be a 6-point run), McGeehan lit into her charges, who, by then, seemed to be in total disarray.
    With the score 18-11 in the visitors’ favor, Bonac’s coach said during a timeout huddle, “You’re all worried about the outcome. I don’t care whether we win or lose. It’s about the process.”
    But there was no rallying the team that day as the Hurricanes went on to win the game 25-16, and thus the match, by a score of 3-2.
    “It’s going to affect us in the seedings,” McGeehan said later. “Westhampton has lost a few too, just as we have, but they’ve beaten us twice now head to head. They’ll be seeded ahead of us. . . .  But there’s a lot of parity among the ‘A’ schools, so I don’t care about being seeded below Westhampton. I just want us to have a shot.”
    Wiltshire led East Hampton in kills, with 13 in 16 attempts; O’Neal had 28 assists, and Mackin had 27 digs.
    Against Harborfields, a greatly satisfying win inasmuch as the Tornadoes have often ousted the Bonackers in the playoffs, Mackin had 17 kills and Wiltshire had 16; O’Neal had 52 assists, and Mackin had 22 digs.