ESM falls in Div. II NYS tourney
CICERO, N.Y. -- You could excuse the Eastport-South Manor boys volleyball team if their minds were transported back to 2010.
For the second straight year, they were dealt the unfortunate hand of playing Victor High School for a state championship. And once again, they were the smaller, less powerful team fighting an uphill battle against a school loaded with Division I collegiate talent.
Ryan Brisson had 12 assists and six digs and John Bohnenblusch had nine kills as ESM (17-2) lost in the NYSPHSAA Division II state final at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, 25-16, 25-18, 25-16.
Tournament MVP Matt DeLong had 33 assists for Victor (21-1).
"We came and didn't play as well as we could have," Brisson said. "But give credit to Victor. They took us out of our game right from the first point. I have the utmost respect for them."
ESM had leads of 9-6 and 11-10 in Game 1 until Victor took over. A lefty smash from Erik Dechow, followed by a kill from Erik Griffin, gave the Blue Devils a one-point lead. Once Victor balanced its offensive attack, the Sharks had no answers. "We came out flat," said ESM senior libero Joey Tuttle, who had 10 digs. "This definitely wasn't our best match. It's over now and we took the loss, but I'm happy with our team."
ESM, the two-time defending Long Island champions, had won nine straight heading into the championship game. But as they found out last year, when they fell to Victor in four games, the upstate competition is stiffer.
"It's a lot harder. All of their kids are over six-feet tall," Bohnenblusch said. "We're used to playing teams with maybe two kids like that. They were just hitting right over our blocks."
Added Brisson: "We can't really prepare for something as good as Victor on the other side of the net. We can only play against what he have, which makes it very difficult to prepare for a game like this."
Victor built an early lead in Game 3, capping an extended rally on a Griffin block to take a 7-1 lead. The sweep came in short order, as ESM only could admire their opponent's skillful exhibition.
Despite being outmanned, the Sharks appeared to take this loss harder than the wide-eyed team that trekked upstate a year earlier. This season's core of five seniors led a group with designs on winning. Once again, only Victor stood in the way.
"This is a great statement about what our program has been able to do under coach [Bruce] Stiriz," Brisson said. "What this senior class has done is solidify us as a downstate power. And hopefully, next year's group can build upon what we've done and come back next year and win the gold plaque."