It took a time out and a little frank talk outside the gym to get the girls volleyball team untracked in the quarterfinals of the Nassau County Conference A playoffs Tuesday.
Down 14-13 midway in the first game against visiting Roslyn, head coach Kate McKeefrey pulled her team out into the hallway and let them know, in no uncertain terms, she was not happy with how they were performing considering what was at stake.
“We were on our heels, and it seems to help sometimes if I raise my voice with them,” said McKeefrey. Roslyn wanted it more than we did. I needed for our team to understand this could be our last game of the year.”
The tough talk paid off. The defending Long Island champion Lady Warriors went on a 12-5 run to take game one and -- after dropping game two against a spirited Roslyn squad, finished out the match 25-14 and 25-9 to advance to the semifinals against Garden City this Friday.
Tuesday was the third meeting for the two teams, with Wantagh (14-0) having won the first two outings in three sets against 4-11 Roslyn.
Leading the way for Wantagh was Jenny Ilibassi (21 digs, 19 kills), Lauren Pennino (11 blocks, 11 kills) and Anna Paulik, with important contributions coming from Carly Simeone and Shannon Kerley. Jennifer Lipski had a strong day at the net, with several kills and blocks in the win. Julie Struzzieri finished the day with15 digs and 25 assists, not to mention keeping the opposition off guard with a number of effective soft place-style returns.
Roslyn, a team which has matured significantly over the course of the season, offered the Lady Warriors a spirited, hard hitting battle, and in fact led most of the way in game two en route to a 25-21 win. Strong service runs for Ilibassi, Simeone and Pennino tied things up at 21 apiece, but unforced errors gave the game to Roslyn.
Game three was a big comeback moment for Wantagh. From 3-3, the Lady Warriors went on a 12-3 run, on several big blocks from Pennino at the net, and a desperation two handed flip over the net from mid-court, for Struzzieri, on an apparent point loss to keep the run going. Wantagh was in the drivers seat after that, as hard hitting from Ilibassi and Paulik helped Kerley and Gabi Dimeglio’s service runs make it two games to one.
By game four, Wantagh was in full gear, and there was little Roslyn could do to counter the resurgent Lady Warriors, particularly with Pennino winning eight service points to open and close the game, sandwiching a run of five points on four aces from Ilibassi.
Wantagh's Nassau County Conference A semifinal match against Garden City will take place Friday at Clarke High School in Westbury starting at 6:15 p.m.