The Hawks came into 2019 as the reigning county champions. Their goal this year was to make the Long Island Championship again, but they couldn’t do it. But through constant change, the team still was among the best in the county.
Take Todd Donaghy taking over for Russi Villalta after her long and successful career as varsity head coach. He understood the pressures of the season going in that he had a team wanting to make a deep run into November.
“When I asked the team what their expectations were, they said a county championship,” said Donaghy. “Based on what I saw, I thought they were on target. I was little nervous because if we didn’t do well, there was one person to blame and that would’ve been me. But I was ready for the challenge.”
“It was kind of difficult,” said senior captain Sean Vieira. “[Villalta] was amazing. But our new coach, I wouldn’t say much less. It was a weird switch but as a team, we adjusted into it and we started getting the ball rolling more.”
Vieira was a leader for the team and played on the outside, finishing the season with 145 kills. The other outside was Matt Vulin, who led the team in kills with 147. Ido Moriah, the team’s co-captain with Vieria, was the team’s setter while the two middle players consisted of Nick Kim and Matt Bernstein. The right setter role was filled by Alex Aldorisio, who racked up 114 kills.
“The ball was spread throughout,” said Donaghy. “The best part about this team is no one really cared who got the ball. They just wanted to win.”
Despite the adjustment, Plainview-Old Bethpate started dominating as per usual with the program. The rallied off 14 straight wins, including top preseason team Massapequa. But it was in that time where the team dealt with some changes as a few players, including one of their best players, 2018 All-County player Matt Kim, departed the team.
“The boys still wanted him back because he was a friend and teammate,” said Donaghy. “The one thing I noticed, though, was that they rallied around each other. They thought they lost our best player, but they rallied and we went 6-1 in his absence.”
That one loss was their second matchup against Massapequa, who outscored them 75-58, sweeping the Hawks in sets. That stuck with the team as they entered the playoffs to try to make a championship run. Sure enough, the team met Massapequa in the county finals.
“It was even more motivation for us to have some payback for that game and to come back even stronger,” said Moriah. “We tried to prove we can beat them a second time.”
Plainview-Old Bethpage came back strong, winning two of the first three sets. They didn’t hold on to win, but the 112-109 final score was one of the closest volleyball championship games in Nassau County history. Donaghy was proud of his team and how they came back from that.
“If a couple points went the other way, instead of watching the Long Island Championship, we’d be playing in it,” said Donaghy. “I couldn’t be more proud. We got beat bad. But in preparing for this game, they did everything I asked them to do and they left everything on the court that night.”