Bonac Girls Net Top Volleyball Seed

Defeating Westhampton Beach Hurricanes 3-0
Nicole Realmuto had been out of the lineup recently, nursing an ankle injury, but returned in fine fettle to help her team shut out Westhampton Beach here last Thursday, capping an undefeated league season. Craig Macnaughton

When, after her East Hampton High School girls volleyball team had swept through the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes 3-0, sealing an undefeated league season, Kathy McGeehan was asked how many undefeated teams she’d had in the past, she directed her questioner’s gaze upward. The first banner he saw was that of her 2002 team, which, indeed, had been undefeated.

Still, undefeated seasons have been a rarity in McGeehan’s 38-year coaching career — the 2009 team, her only one to go upstate, took a 19-0 record into New York’s Final Four. And while things have yet to be played out, this team seems to be the most balanced one McGeehan’s ever had.

It certainly was hitting on all cylinders here against Westhampton last Thursday. Before the match began, the team’s nine seniors — Mary McDonald, Madyson Neff, Nicole Realmuto, Elle Johnson, Ella Gurney, Connie Chan, Claire Hopkins, Erin Decker, and Julia Kearney — were honored, its being “senior night.”

And then, with Neff serving, East Hampton jumped out to a 3-0 lead, the third point resulting from a double block by Johnson and Gurney. A double-contact call on Westhampton turned the ball over a moment later, and, with Gurney serving, the Bonackers extended their margin to 7-1, and so it went. By the time the visitors were able to put together back-to-back points, for 17-6 and 17-7, the die had been cast: East Hampton was to win 25-13. 

McGeehan’s crew maintained the lead throughout the second set too. Molly Mamay, who rarely lets the ball touch the floor on defense, served six straight points as the Bonackers went from 8-3 to 14-3, at which point Gurney, playing in the middle, was called for touching the top of the net. A timely tip to the floor by Mamay made it 19-9, bringing Mickela Junemann to the service line. Kills by Neff sandwiched around a Hurricane error made it 22-9. The last three East Hampton points resulted from yet another double-contact call assessed Westhampton, a long kill attempt by one of its hitters, and a kill by East Hampton’s setter, Johnson, that closed it out, at 25-11.

The match had drawn a large crowd, filling the bleachers on the right side of the gym. Cries of “Bonac! Bonac!” greeted Johnson as she stepped to the line at the beginning of the third set. A kill by Junemann, a long hit by Westhampton, another double block, by Realmuto and Kearney, a Westhampton error, an ace by Johnson that just went over the net, and a kill by Realmuto, who had missed the previous match because of an ankle injury, put the Hurricanes in a 6-0 hole. 

Not long after, a double block by Johnson and Gurney extended East Hampton’s lead to 15-5, after which the visitors’ setter was called again for double contact. A rare kill to the floor that eluded Mamay and Junemann brought the visitors to within six, at 23-17, but, in the midst of a din, Neff notched a kill to side out, after which she served what was to be the final point of the night, resulting from yet another double-contact call on Westhampton’s setter.

With the victory, which capped a 12-0 league season, relatives and friends of the players ran out onto the floor to join them in the celebration. McGeehan was hugged and kissed. As aforesaid, undefeated seasons have not been the norm in her long career. 

“Their setter struggled,” she was to say when questioned afterward, “and, consequently, they were tight and could never get into a rhythm. . . . We served well, our offense was clicking, and we had great blocking. It was great to have Nicole back. . . .”

The next day, McGeehan learned that, as expected, East Hampton had been awarded the top seed among the six teams in the county Class A playoffs, entitling it to a first-round bye. Westhampton Beach is the second seed. The Bonackers are to meet the Islip-Kings Park winner in a semifinal match at home Monday, at 4 p.m. McGeehan said she’d try to keep her team sharp in the interim, perhaps mixing some scrimmages in with practice sessions.

The Class A final is to be played next Thursday at Suffolk Community College-Brentwood, at 5 p.m. The Long Island championship game is to be played on Sunday, Nov. 11, at Farmingdale State College, at 5 p.m. The Class A Final Four tournament is to be contested at Glens Falls over the Nov. 17-18 weekend.