Sachem North upsets No. 3 Lindenhurst
It only went four games, but the outcome was not what was expected.
Behind the efforts of John Echel, Rob Steinberg, and a host of others, the Sachem North Flaming Arrows upset No. 3 Lindenhurst, 3-1, on Monday night at Lindenhurst High School.
“We knew that Lindenhurst was one of the toughest teams in Suffolk, if not the toughest,” said Echel. “We just said the mountain is pretty high that we have to climb right now, we can only lose one, and I don’t feel like losing any.”
The hill the senior middle blocker who had 24 kills, eight blocks, and four aces is referring to is the extremely tough challenge of making the playoffs. Sachem North (5-6) came into Monday night needing to win three of their next four games to advance into the Suffolk County League I playoffs.
This is step one.
“It just felt awesome,” said sophomore setter Rob Steinberg. “It shows how when we play our best we can beat anyone. I feel like everyone is expecting too little out of us, and we just came in hard and we made a statement.”
Game 1 was about as exciting as any high school sport could get.
It was a game that saw Sachem North jump out to a 4-1 lead, then give up two points, and then rattle off the next five points to go up 9-3. Lindenhurst would scratch and claw their way back to a 12-9 game. Then as the score read 16-11, Lindenhurst’s resilience shown as they scored the next six points to take a one-point lead on Sachem North. These two teams would trade the next four points, but Sachem would gain back possession on a Steinberg to Nick Miller kill that made it 19 apiece.
The Arrows scored three consecutive points to go up 21-19, but relinquished the lead as the Bulldogs (9-2) would take a 23-21 lead. As these two teams drew even at 24, each team would inch their way closer to a Game 1 victory, but not until Brian Trusley’s (19 kills, 5 digs) kill off a Steinberg assist would the Arrows take the 34-32 Game 1 victory.
“It definitely set the tone. That was a crazy game and that was a crazy match,” Steinberg said. “It was a lot of fun to be a part of.”
In Game 2, Lindenhurst would show why they are currently ranked third in MSG Varsity’s Long Island Boys Volleyball rankings.
The Bulldogs fired on all cylinders as they would cruise to a 25-13 victory. Chris DeLucie continued to shine for Lindenhurst as he set up many crucial points to teammates like Michael Comens, Rob Sarneckis, and Kenneth Serwan. Libero Pat Konopka served out five of the final six points in the game, to tie it up at one.
“We came out here and they just have the most unbelievable roster with DeLucie, Sarneckis, and Comens,” said Echel. “They just have so much firepower on that team and then you have our smaller, defensive team. It was like a David vs. Goliath thing and we stepped up.”
Echel’s team would step up in the crucial game three.
Game 3 was reminiscent of the first game. Sachem North jumped out to a massive 17-8 lead, but Lindenhurst would get it close. The Bulldogs would outscore the Flaming Arrows 10-4 to make it a three-point game at 21-18. The Flaming Arrows would close the door as Echel placed a beautiful ball in the back left corner to give his squad a 2-1 games advantage with a 25-22 win.
“In that second game we just didn’t have enough energy. I felt like we came in too high after that first win and we thought we were going to coast through,” said Steinberg. “In-between the second and third game we just realized we needed to step it up, step up our passing and our energy level, and that’s how we came away with the win.”
Game 4 was slightly less nerve racking for Sachem. With the score at 13-12, Sachem would take advantage of subpar serving from Lindenhurst that gave back the possession. From there, they would close out the 3 games to 1 victory by outscoring the Bulldogs 12-6 for an eventual 25-18 win, again with Echel coming down with thunderous attack on the ball.
“John is a very dominant player and very consistent, so we just try to feed it to him and he just carries us,” says Steinberg about the senior. “The game came slow to me today, and thankfully just went in my favor,” said Echel. “There are some games where you can read the setter’s hands…I read it pretty good and we had a good outcome.”
With one win down, Steinberg knows that his team must stay the course for a chance at the playoffs. “It feels so good, but at the same time it was just one game and we need two more to clinch a playoff spot. We can celebrate a little bit, but we have to go back to work tomorrow.”
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