Using four different lineups in a 3-1 Section 1 Division 1 semifinals win over No. 4 East Ramapo, the No. 1 Scarsdale boys volleyball team showed its depth in advancing to the finals against Suffern for the second straight year.
After not taking a set from Suffern for nearly four seasons — the Raiders won the opening set in the finals last year before losing the next three — Scarsdale lost 3-2 and won 3-0 vs. in the final week of the regular season and have high hopes of victory for tiebreaker that was scheduled to be played Thursday, April 15, at 6 p.m. at Scarsdale.
“I’m thrilled to be back in the finals and I’m thrilled to get a chance to go back against Suffern,” coach Jim Williams said. “If we can get them one more time then we really have arrived.”
Williams went with his “A lineup” in the first set against Ramapo, the same one he will use against Suffern in the finals. That group includes seniors Gustavo Quaresma de Moura, Ben Hoexter and Noah Weber, juniors Santiago Gomez, Drew Hill and Aaron Klein, and sophomores Tommy DiLorenzo and Charlie Hirschhorn. That group won 25-15.
Next up was the “seniors group,” where Williams had the team’s fourth senior, Lee Kermanshachi, play the entire set, helping lead the team to a 25-13 win. “He had a ball playing all around,” Williams said. “He got to play front row, he got to play back row, he got to play with his classmates. For me that was a big thank you to him for being part of the program for so long. Even though he didn’t start and he didn’t play a lot he was a big part of the team. He made his presence known.”
For the third set, Williams went with his juniors and sophomores, who lost 25-20 in a tight game. “The juniors are anxious to play and you hear them whispering, ‘I should get playing time,’ so yesterday was a chance for them to see that it’s not so easy out there,” Williams said. “They’ve got to work hard and we’ll get them ready for next year, but it doesn’t just happen. That was a big message I was trying to send to those kids.”
Williams knows his junior class is strong as they often scrimmage the starters in practice — complete with friendly trash-talking from both sides — and compete well. “Everybody knows they can play, everybody is confident they can play and it just pushes everybody to the next level,” he said.
The fourth game, a 25-11 clincher, was a bit of a mash-up with many of the starters, but also giving rest to some players like big hitter Gomez and giving Klein a chance to play strong side.
“Against Ramapo I knew I could play around like that and the finals will be very serious, very focused and a very short bench,” Williams said.
One weapon the Raiders never had this season was senior David Lang, who would have made Scarsdale even more dominant. As it is they are 10-1 and have dropped only five sets all season.
“I knew we would be better this year, but what I didn’t know was how the other teams would be,” Williams said. “I thought South would be a lot better this year than last year. Suffern, I knew they were losing their setter, which showed earlier this week. They just couldn’t get the ball to Joel [Emmanuel] the way they wanted to. When I looked at the boxscore for that game they just made so many more errors than we did. That was the big difference.”
From the team’s first winless season in 2016 to now, the biggest difference in the program is the serving. In the early years Williams had to serve during practice and bring in another hard-hitting, ball-moving server to help give the team a taste of what they would be facing defensively against competition. So not only can the team now handle difficult serves and spikes, but they can serve well, too.
“Now I’ve got kids who are hitting the ball with a lot of knuckle on it, a lot of topspin, which makes us better because we can practice against those hard serves,” Williams said. “That’s the kind of overall program development that has gotten us to this point.”