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South Side Falls in Girls Volleyball Class A Championship

Lady Cyclones nearly upset undefeated Lady Warriors in five-set match.

For those who like stats, the set scores in Thursday's Nassau County girls volleyball Class A title match between Wantagh and South Side were 25-21, 20-25, 25-17, 22-25 and 25-18.

But sometimes the numbers don't tell the story.

When it came to Thursday's title match played at SUNY Old Westbury, the knock down, drag out battle came down to who had their top personnel on the floor when the last few punches were thrown.

Unfortunately for the Lady Cyclones, it wasn't them.

With Lauren Pennino at the net and Carley Simeone serving -- and with South Side's two biggest players out of the rotation -- Wantagh (18-0), the defending Long Island champions, finally overcame its toughest competition of the year at the tail end of the fifth game, running the table with seven straight points to retain their county crown and remain unbeaten. The Lady Warriors have won the last three Nassau County Class A titles.

"They were amazing and it went point for point," Wantagh coach Katie McKeefrey said. "In a match like that, whoever is ahead at the end will win."

South Side sees its season end with an impressive 17-4 overall record.

"I'm extremely proud of our girls," South Side coach Cheryl Scalice said. "We went five games against the defending county champions. We didn't play soft and we didn't play scared. We went own swinging -- we just gave it away in the last few points."

It was evident the match was going to be a back and forth affair early on. After Wantagh took the first one 25-21, game two was tied seven times, through 14-14. Led by impressive front court players Principato Kayla and Kiernan Bridget, South Side went on an 11-4 run to even it up at one apiece.

Strong work at the net saw Wantagh take game three.

In game four, it was once again a case of South Side refusing to go away. Through 21-21, the two teams were knotted up nine times, and a 4-1 run by the Lady Cyclones opponents forced a game five.

That set the stage for the game five showdown. With the scored knotted 18-18, that's when Wantagh's time came. With Simeone serving and Lauren Pennino at the net, it was all Lady Warriors. Pennino had a kill to make it 19-18. A furious volley wound up going Wantagh's way when Jenny Ilibassi put a desperation third hit over the net, running away from center court, which fell untouched on the South Side end of the court.

"They were trying to chill me out," Simeone said. "Subbing people, calling time outs. A player tying her shoes. It was scary to serve -- but I managed to serve for the win."

Simeone responded to the pressure by serving two aces in a row. A double block by Paulik and Pennino made it 24-18. And an unforced error on a Simeone serve proved fatal for South Side, and the match winner for Wantagh.

Simeone finished the championship match with 52 assists. Gerri Sciolto led the way with 32 digs Lauren Pennino had 11 assists, and Anna Paulik and Jenn Lipski had six apiece.

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