Trying to separate the Port Jefferson and the Greenport/Southold high school girls volleyball teams isn’t easy.
It goes beyond the fact that both teams share the same purple and white colors and virtually identical uniforms. When these teams face each other on the court, their matches have tended to be thisclose.
Just look at the numbers. Both teams shared 4-4 records in Suffolk County League VIII and overall marks of 4-6 during the regular season. They split their two regular-season matches, the second one being a five-game affair. So, was anyone really surprised that they extended themselves to five games once again in their Suffolk Class C Tournament outbracket match on Monday?
As is customary when these teams meet, it was a competitive match at Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium. The last momentum swing went in the Clippers’ favor. It wasn’t until Port Jefferson smashed the ball into the net on a hitting error at match point that coach Mike Gunther and his Clippers could breathe easy and rejoice in their victory, 18-25, 25-21, 25-20, 12-25, 25-21.
With their first playoff triumph since 2012, the fourth-seeded Clippers (5-6) advance to a semifinal against No. 1 Mattituck (14-4) on Wednesday. The other semifinal on Wednesday will pit No. 3 Center Moriches (5-9) against No. 2 Babylon (7-8).
After taking a two games to one lead, the Clippers collapsed in Game 4, falling behind by 24-8 as the Royals went on a 10-0 run behind the serving of Katie Chorao, who went 24 of 24 serving.
The fourth game was an aberration. Before the Clippers eventually folded, they ran off 4 straight points on game point, giving themselves some momentum heading into the final game.
Port Jefferson scored the first point of the fifth game. The Clippers never trailed again, building leads of 16-10 and 23-18. Gina Anasagasti’s fifth and final kill of the match was the biggest one of the day, making the score 24-21.
In a match that didn’t produce eye-popping statistics for the Clippers, Anasagasti, a senior playing in her final match in her home gym, turned in a strong performance, making timely plays.
After Sidney Mulvaney handled most of the setting in the first four games, Mercedes Edwards took over the setting in the pivotal fifth game for the Clippers.
Defensively, the Clippers received eight digs apiece from Rosa Hernandez and Monique Smith.
No. 5 Port Jefferson (4-7) lost despite outpointing the Clippers, 112-105. The Royals also had more assists (20-14), more kills (18-15) and a better serving percentage (94.7 to 80.8 percent) than the Clippers. Unforced errors proved to be their undoing.
Chorao produced 14 assists and helped Leslye Rosario put up 7 kills.
During the first game, one of Port Jefferson’s starting outside hitters, Marianna Spentzos, landed awkwardly after swinging at the ball and crashed to the floor in obvious pain, hurting her left knee. She walked off the floor and later twice entered the match before determining she couldn’t continue.
Photo: Greenport/Southold following its five-game playoff victory over Port Jefferson on Monday. (Credit: Bob Liepa)