It’s a given that championship-caliber teams raise their level of play in the postseason. Judging by their heightened performance November 1 at home in the quarterfinals of the Class C quarterfinals, the Rye Neck volleyball team is a contender for the Section crown.
The fourth-seeded Panthers bulldozed No. 5 Briarcliff 3-0, with winning scores of 25-18, 25-22, and 25-19. Every time the Bears appeared to have an answer for their opponent, Rye Neck changed the question.
“I am very, very happy with this performance,” said head coach Kristin Desio. “For us to win in three games is big. We’re a team that was kind of known to go four in victories, but we’ve grown tremendously over the past month. I think the girls have realized just how talented they are, and they don’t second guess themselves anymore.”
Rye Neck, now 18-2 and with a date at No. 1 Pawling in the semifinals post press time, hasn’t lost a match since October 1, going 10-0 and shutting out opponents in seven consecutive contests. Most impressive perhaps, was the quarterfinal shutout against a Briarcliff team that defeated them in a tournament earlier this season.
Julia Bilotta and Nicole Maggio dominated the match from the start. Bilotta was simply devastating. The junior wreaked havoc in all aspects of the game, recording 11 kills, two digs, and four aces, including three straight in the third and final game. Her body control was impeccable as she routinely soared to deploy a bombastic aerial attack. Maggio was equally brilliant. The senior registered eight kills, three aces, and one dig. She had two big kills in the final game, the first with the score knotted 13-13. Maggio blasted a shot from the left of Rye Neck’s side to the far right of Briarcliff’s for an opposite-court kill. She then finished off the match by hammering a shot home. In the second game, Maggio used her smarts to fake a spike and then gently tapped the ball into a hole.
Desio also credited Paige O’Donnell for her performance. The sophomore led the Panthers with three big blocks, and came up with two spikes at the net. Nicole Bruenn, a senior, finished the match with 22 assists and an ace, while junior Marisa Bella recorded three kills and an ace. Bella was also the server on Rye Neck’s first big run, which pushed the score from 6-4 to 11-4 in game one.
Dominique Falcone came up with three digs, two aces, and an assist. Andrea Wurzburger, a senior, had five kills and an ace.
“We’ve been a step-by-step team with short-term goals this season, and it has worked for us,” said Desio. “We let our nerves get the best of us in the past. The big difference is we kept our composure today, and answered every time they rallied.”