The Flatbush Varsity Boys Volleyball team made its first ever venture into postseason play on Tuesday night (5/22), and they came away with a hard-earned victory defeating the Lions of the Solomon Schechter School of Long Island in a classic 5-set match in Old Wesbury, NY.
The Falcons finished the season with a record of 5-3, placing them in a 4-way tie for 3rd place in the MYHSAL, along with Magen David, North Shore and SSLI. Those three schools constituted the three losses on the season for the Falcons, pushing them down to the 6th seed in the playoffs, and a match-up on the road with the Lions. SSLI plays its home games in the spacious gym at The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, a very different feel that the confines of the Falcons’ home court in the Aux Nest of YoF High School. How would these Faclons fare in their inaugural playoff contest, an in a somewhat hostile environment?
There was definitely a slow start to the contest, on both sides, as the teams traded points to move the score out to an 8-8 tie. That was the case until Flatbush had trouble breaking serve and SSLI moved out to an 11-8 advantage. But, Flatbush bounced back as Ohad Reichman served them back even at 12-12. Unforced Falcon errors then let SSLI rebuild their cushion. It was 19-12 before Flatbush got back control of the serve. Jack Mishaan ran Flatbush back to 19-16 before a Lion slam pushed SSLI to the brink of victory. They took game one the next point, 21-16.
The loss lit a spark under the Faclons. Mishaan led off for Flatbush, and a mini run (including a return spike by Ricky Sasson and a huge Sammy Burekhovich block) sparked Flatbush to an early 8-1 lead. Then, there was a bit of controversy as the official ruled a delayed call – a full two points later (Flatbush had a 10-1 lead on the scoreboard at that point). The game restarted with Flatbush holding an 8-2 lead.
Flatbush took the lead out to 14-7 before the Lions put together a run of their own to close to 14-10, prompting a Flatbush timeout. A beautifully placed reverse deep drive from Mishaan took the serve back for the Falcons. But, SSLI immediately regained it. Mishaan rose up again on the next point with a great block followed by a point-scoring spike. But, Falcon unforced errors let the Lions close to two points before a Burekhovich dink scored for Flatbush. Flatbush moved the lead out to 19-16, when again controversy set in. SSLI looked to have sent a spike sailing out of bounds, but the linesman called it a deflection. Flatbush moved to 20-17, but again gave the serve back. SSLI got it to 20-19 before Flatbush closed the door, taking game 2, 21-19, and evening the match at 1-1.
An impressive Sasson block was part of an opening run of Mishaan serves that gave Flatbush the first 5 points of game 3. A Burekhovich block made it a 7-2 game. Reichman’s dink added to the Flatbush lead. Burekhovich then served the Falcons out to a 12-3 lead before ceding the serve back to the Lions. Jason Dayan took over the serve, and extended the lead to 16-5. A fantastic deep ball from Mishaan took the serve right back. Reichman pulled out a service ace to advance the score to 19-6. Mishaan slammed Flatbush to the brink, and a Sonny Cayre block sealed the deal. Flatbush took game three, 21-8, moving one game away from advancing to the semifinals.
Game four saw SSLI take a 3-1 lead on free balls from the Falcons defense. The teams then traded points for a stretch, until Dayan served Flatbush even at 6-6. But, SSLI quickly reestablished the cushion. Mishaan tied the game on a block spike. Again, though, the Lions regained control at 9-8. They soon pushed the lead to 3, and the Falcon coaches wanted to talk things over. But afterward, SSLI continued to score. It was 14-8 before Flatbush took back the serve. They gave it right back, though. At 15-10, Flatbush served out of order, the point was awarded to SSLI and the Lions continued to roll. A Burekhovich block got the serve back, but Flatbush trailed 17-11. The falcons closed to 17-14, but got no closer. A 21-14 win for SSLI evened the match again at 2-2. A fifth game would be needed to decide who would advance.
There is little more exciting that a decisive fifth game. Cayre dinked Flatbush to the early lead, and Burekhovich added to it for the Falcons, making a run on Mishaan’s serving. Burekhovich made up for an errant set with a block for a 5-1 advantage for the visitors. Unforced errors again let SSLI off the hook, and the Lions soon closed to 7-5. A Dayan ace moved the lead back to 4. A Lions misplay gave Flatbush an 11-7 lead, and the teams changed sides. Another big Dayan play – a dig on a rough return – extended the Flatbush lead to 13-7. Burekhovich and Sasson teamed up for another big point. And then again, the duo pushed the lead to 17-8. A service break on another Sasson set for a Burekhovich spike made the score 18-9. Another set-spike from the reliable pair took the serve back at 19-10. Mishaan pushed Flatbush to the brink with a scoring drive. But it took a Lions serve in the net to finish things off. Flatbush took the decisive fifth set, 21-13, setting off a Falcon celebration!
Abie Silvers and Charles Harary, the Falcons Co-Head Coaches, celebrated right along with the boys, and heaped praise on them for their performance in their first playoff setting. “What a fantastic game!” exclaimed Coach Silvers. “The boys earned it out there tonight.” Coach Harary was equally ebullient in his praise. “The boys really worked together tonight, sharing the ball and stepping up when the game was at its most intense. They were not afraid to make plays, and it paid off.”
Eric Amkraut, Flatbush’s Athletic Director, who was on hand for the road playoff contest, shared even greater praise for the boys, and it came from an unusual source. “After the game, I was approached by a number of Schechter parents. My initial thought was they were looking to register displeasure, as their team had just lost a hearbreaker. But, it was exactly the opposite. They shared how impressed they were with the way our boys conducted themselves throughout the match. The expressly pointed out how respectful they were, both in their demeanor on the court and in how they treated all involved in the game – coaches, officials and opponents alike. As an AD, I could not be prouder!”
NEST NOTES: The Varsity Falcons have little time to enjoy the opening round victory. The win advances Flatbush to the MYHSAL semifinal round, where they will now take on the top-seeded HAFTR Hawks on Thursday, May 24. Game time at the Cedarhurst, NY school (33 Washington Avenue) is set for 7:30 pm.