Boys varsity volleyball on track for postseason run

Matt Corsitto, Sports Editor

This October has been quite the month for the boys varsity volleyball team, and they are showing no signs of slowing down as they enter the postseason.  The team has yet to lose a match this month, and they currently find themselves with a 7-4 record in Nassau County Conference I.

“I think the key to our success has just been that we’re focusing a lot more in practice,” said junior J.P. Johnston.  “We all motivate each other, and we make sure that we are always giving it our all.”

This mentality has been a deciding factor in the Vikings’ success in the second half of their season.  The team has focused on improving their record after a disappointing September, in which they lost to conference rival Long Beach in the Port Invitational on Sept. 24.  This marked the first time Port lost the tournament.

“Losing the Port Invitational really motivated us,” said senior Juan Soto. “We knew that we really had to come together as a team and focus on our goal of winning a county championship.”

Days later, the Vikings suffered another loss at the hands of Long Beach after battling for five long, grueling sets.  In the end, the team did not get the result they wanted.

“We were winning the match in the fourth set, and we couldn’t close it out,” said junior Jacob McElroy.  “In the end, we just lost our focus and composure.”

Although losing the match to Long Beach was a tough pill to swallow for Port, the team returned back to the high level of competition they are known for.  On Oct. 8, the team travelled to Eastport-South Manor High School for an invitational tournament.  Port shocked top teams from both Suffolk and Nassau counties as they moved on through the group stage and into the playoffs.  The hot streak continued for the Vikings as they were finally able to avenge their losses to Long Beach, defeating them in the first round of the playoffs.

“We took that game against Long Beach personally,” said senior captain Connor MacPhail.  “We played a great game and I was really proud of the boys.”

The Vikings finished in fourth place out of over fifteen top teams from Long Island who competed in the event.

Since that tournament, the Vikings have won four consecutive matches. During this remarkable run, Port took down conference rival Massapequa on Oct. 15.  This marked the Vikings’ first victory over Massapequa in three years.

“The game against Massapequa was huge for us,” said MacPhail.  “They’re one of the best teams in Nassau, and we managed to beat them.”

MacPhail led the team with with 18 kills, along with 6 aces.  MacPhail has been Port’s go to guy so far this season, and he has been a key reason to the team’s success.  Along with being the team’s leader on the court, MacPhail has made it apparent to also be a leader off the court as well.

“Connor is a great captain and he’s been doing very well so far this year,” said sophomore Jacob Moy.  “I know he can lead us through the playoffs.”

Two days later, the Vikings took on Conference B-1 opponent Bellmore. Port showed why they belong in Nassau’s top conference, beating Bellmore in three sets.  Sophomore Reggie Bharath led the Vikings with 18 assists, and senior Stanley Elysee added six kills.  As an underclassman, Bharath has certainly stepped up in a major way and proven himself to the team. The first-year varsity player has been leading the Vikings offensive attacks and he has been a key contributor to the team’s success.

“Reggie has been doing an amazing job running our offense this season,” said Elysee.  “We’re all very proud of him.”

On Oct. 19, the Vikings hosted their annual “Dig Pink” game.  The night was filled will raffles, bake sales, and an exciting five set game between conference rival East Meadow.  Along with raising money for breast cancer research, the team made a comeback and beat their opponents in the exciting match.

The game tested the team’s endurance and mental toughness as they had to fight hard for this victory.  MacPhail recorded 26 kills during the game, while Elysee added another 13.  In the backcourt, the team was lead by senior captain Jeremy Ettlinger, who was all over the court, making great plays all night.

“We really played as a team that night,” said Ettlinger.  “I think we are on a great roll heading into the postseason now.”

The Vikings have known since the beginning of the season that the county championship could end up belonging to any team.  Port is finally starting to realize that they very well could be that team if they continue to play the way they are playing right now.

“I have been telling them since day one that it’s anybody’s title,” said Coach Maria Giamanco.  “It’s right there for the boys if they want it bad enough.”