For all intents and purposes, let’s say that Section 1 is Keanu Reeves’ character “Conor O’Neill” from the 2001 throwback Hardball. In one of the more heart-racing scenes of the movie (spoiler alert coming up), O’Neill, a degenerate gambler with everything invested in the Chicago Bulls covering a six-point spread against Miami, narrowly escapes after a last-second buzzer-beater.
The clock is winding down, and while Section 1 will have better odds — the Huskers having the top seed, home-court advantage and no spread against the ninth-seeded Quakers in Monday’s Class A quarterfinal — the pressure is still very much on.
I think the Huskers are more than capable of beating the Quakers, and, not that I have any allegiance one way or the other as to who wins this match, a Horace Greeley win would be the section’s worst nightmare coming to life.
Horace Greeley, armed with two boys on its team because the school would not set up a separate boys volleyball team, has been the center of controversy in the section this year. While the Quakers have not dominated the field with its two Y-chromosomal-bearing student-athletes — posting a modest 8-7 regular season record — the argument around the volleyball community is that having boys on the team gives them a significant advantage, no matter where they are used in the lineup.
There are no rules prohibiting both boys being on the court at the same time or from playing in the front row, so the two — Jason Elbaum (pictured far right) and Andrew LaFortezza (pictured near right), who stand at 5-foot-11 and 6-feet, respectively — could make an impact depending on how they are used. Most matches during the regular season don’t carry a whole lot of weight to them, unless you’re vying for a No. 1 seed or to just make the tournament, so there hasn’t been too much of a stink brought up from any of Horace Greeley’s eight — now nine, with its first-round win over Lincoln — wins.
People have accused that spikes from the boys have injured opposing female players, or that it is simply “not fair” because of their athletic ability and — at the risk of sounding sexist — “genetic advantage” in their DNA. Monday’s match at Yorktown could be, or at least it should be, one of the most-watched quarterfinal matches in the entire tournament. Especially if Horace Greeley wins.
Yorktown (17-1) did not play Horace Greeley during its nearly blemish-free regular season, but it did play the Quakers at Panas’ 10th annual Panther Invitational earlier this month, where it placed second to the hosts. The Huskers swept their match against the Quakers in pool play, but Monday’s contest will have a much different feel and much more on the line than bragging rights at a weekend tournament.
If Horace Greeley were to win on Monday — especially if the “Greeley boys,” as they’ve been informally dubbed, have monster matches — it would likely cause pandemonium throughout the section. The Quakers are a talented team, but it’s hard to argue that they would have the season they have without the boys on the roster. It would be even harder to argue that the Quakers would beat the talented Huskers — especially at The Crop.
Aside from teams — mainly Yorktown — being up-in-arms about the Horace Greeley win, it ponders the question: “Is it good for the sport?” While nobody — except maybe Horace Greeley — will be happy about the win, maybe it will force the section’s hand into addressing the need for more boys volleyball teams in the section.
It’s hard to fault the Greeley boys for playing because they went through all the proper channels. Heck, they even asked for a boys team. This was not some “let’s beat up on the girls” vendetta by the boys; they wanted their own team. LaFortezza even said, “Hopefully this — us playing for the girls team — starts the momentum towards building a boys league.”
There are currently only three boys volleyball teams in Section 1, all of which are located in Rockland — Suffern, Clarkstown North and Clarkstown South. Up until mere weeks before the season, East Ramapo and Arlington dropped their teams out of the league.
Several teams have said that they have interest from boys who want to start a program, but for whatever reasons — not enough boys to form a team, financial (mostly the latter) — there has been no progress in adding to the boys league, leaving the boys (the ones who actually have teams, that is) forced to keep playing in their own little world in Rockland.
Hen Hud coach and Section 1 coordinator Diane Swertfager has said numerous times that there needs to be more boys volleyball teams, stating that the section is “behind the times” compared to other sections. Mahopac coach Jay Melville has also put the word out that he will set up clinics and clubs for boys so that the league can expand.
Again, I think Yorktown will win on Monday — I’m just opening a can of worms in the case of a “what if” scenario. However, if Horace Greeley were to win, the can wouldn’t just open — it would explode.
Photo credit: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News