PORT JEFFERSON 3, GREENPORT/SOUTHOLD 1
Port Jefferson coach Bob Conlin has seen enough high school volleyball over his days to know momentum can fluctuate rapidly throughout a match.
Even after his Royals persevered to come back from a sizable hole in the third game against Greenport/Southold Wednesday afternoon to seize control at 2-1, he wasn’t ready to celebrate just yet.
“You can win the first two, then the other team just digs in and all of a sudden you relax a little bit and the other team comes back,” he said. “I would like to think so if you win the third game to go 2-1, it takes a little wind out of their sails. Now it puts more pressure on them. But reality, it’s high school kids playing high school ball.”
The Royals had all the momentum after winning a wild back-and-forth third game 27-25. With a chance to put the Clippers away in the fourth game, the Royals pounced on it. They jumped ahead 13-7 and didn’t look back, wrapping the match up in four games.
The final lead read 25-15, 16-25, 27-25, 25-18.
The Clippers, donning their pink tie-dye uniforms for their Dig Pink game, came into the match at Port Jefferson High School a half game behind Port Jefferson in the League VII standings. With the win the Royals improved to 5-3 while Greenport slipped to 4-5.
Both teams traded blows in the first two games, each winning by a comfortable margin. The match came down to the third game and as it so often does in volleyball, it was a game of runs for both teams as the momentum switched from one end to another.
The Clippers got out to an early 7-3 lead after a kill from junior outside hitter Shelby Kostal. The Royals came back and tied the game at 10 before the Clippers got rolling again and reclaimed the lead 16-12.
That’s when it all started to unravel for Greenport.
Katie Lochren took the serve for Port Jefferson down by three points and rolled off three straight aces to the back line during a stretch of five straight points. A service error gave the ball back to Greenport, but once Rachel Neilson took the serve for the Royals, she picked up right where Lochren left off.
Miscommunication on the Clippers’ end helped the Royals jump ahead 23-18. In total the Royals scored 11 of 13 points during their run.
“I think the whole key is their talking and communicating more as a team,” Conlin said. “If they get down, it’s not letting it get to their head as much anymore. I think they’re getting a little bit tougher that way.”
While the game appeared comfortably in the hands of Port Jefferson, the Clippers weren’t done yet. Down 24-19, their backs squarely against the wall, the Clippers surged back with six straight points to take a 25-24 lead. Kostal had back-to-back aces to give the Clippers 22 points. Junior Nina Papamichael tipped a ball over off an assist from setter Megan Demarest for the 24th point.
After a long volley at 25-24, the Royals got the point to tie the game. They scored again to go up one and closed the game out when the Royals hit a ball across the net from left to right that Kostal chased and got a hand on, but it deflected away.
“I knew Greenport can be real tough,” Conlin said. “All of a sudden they get down and start to play really hard and they don’t give up.”