PLEASANTVILLE -- For the last decade, the boys volleyball players of Western New York have talked about extending "the streak."
And every year, the players on Long Island have talked about breaking it.
Both regions have something new to talk about now. Long Island came out of the losers bracket to beat Western in a best-of-five match and then in a one-game playoff Saturday evening at Pace University, breaking Western's 11-year gold medal streak in men's scholastic volleyball at the Empire State Games.
"It's just awesome breaking the dynasty," said Long Island's William Gimello, who returned from last year's team that was swept by Western in the final. "That's our goal every year -- to beat Western."
The 11-year run was not only the second-longest current streak but it goes down in the ESG history books as the second-longest gold-medal streak ever. Western's synchronized swimming will attempt to win its 30th team gold in 30 Games today.
"When you have three or four clubs in the Buffalo and Rochester area combined, you can put together an amazing squad," said sixth-year Long Island coach Michael Legge, whose team had lost to Western in the previous three finals. "We've been hoping for something like this for a long time."
The women's scholastic team kept alive two streaks, however, playing in its 25th straight final and winning its sixth straight gold by sweeping Long Island, 25-22, 25-15, 25-14, in the championship match. Western went 3-2 in pool play but fought its way back to the final.
Coach Rob Werkmeister, a University at Buffalo grad from Victor, credited Sweet Home's Kelsey Maving and Starpoint's Sam Palka for their play on defense and at the net. Sydney Palka (Starpoint) and Heather Henry (Eden) were also on the team.
Since the Long Island men came out of the losers bracket (Western had defeated them in the preliminaries), they had to beat Western in a best-of-five match just to force the one-game playoff. Long Island won a wonderfully entertaining contest, 20-25, 25-21, 26-24, 20-25, 15-11, in which the teams traded flying kills, big blocks and tough back-line digs.
The scoring margin of the second game never was more than four; in the third game the biggest lead was three. After Western evened the match at 2-2, Long Island jumped to an 11-6 lead; Western hurt itself the rest of the way as it botched three serves.
Long Island reveled in its five-set win and rode that momentum to what became a runaway in the playoff. As he did all day, 6-foot-8 Chris Biscardi clobbered kill after kill at the net for Long Island. Those prompted Western timeouts after Long Island took leads of 12-7 and 18-11.
With each point, the heavily downstate contingent among the crowd of about 400 got behind Long Island, and their women's scholastic teammates bounced up and down the sideline. When Western couldn't return John Kanaras' spike, the Long Islanders flooded the court in celebration.
Western got great play from Hamburg's Phillip Peterson, who used his 6-7 frame to repeatedly slam booming spikes down the line. Amherst's 6-5 Charlie Gomez, Cheektowaga's 6-4 Jeffrey Gutmann and Lancaster's 6-6 Ryan Garby each added key blocks and kills, many served up by setter Jared Pincoski of Orchard Park.
"Long Island played fantastic," said Western coach Kyle Salisbury of Newark, who has been involved with the last four Games. "The guys are upset about it, but in the long run I think they'll be OK."
The women's open team lost the championship match to a veteran New York City team for the second straight year, 25-23, 25-17, 25-18.
"I'm sick of these silver medals," said a smiling Lindsay Matikosh, a former standout at North Tonawanda and UB. "[New York City] is a great team because they've been playing together for such a long time. This was the best Western team I've played with in a long time. It's tough to come in with a different team every year, because you have to learn to play with each other all over again."
The men's open team lost to Long Island, 20-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-16, in the gold medal game.