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Breakout year for Elmont

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The girls’ basketball program has been in the spotlight at Elmont High for much of the past decade, but it’s the girls’ volleyball team that is the talk of the town this fall.

After a thrilling, come-from-behind 25-22, 25-27, 20-25, 25-15, 25-23 victory over district rival Carey last Friday afternoon, the Lady Spartans improved their record to 12-1, and are a victory away from their first conference championship since 2001. Outside hitters Tobi Fadugba (18) and Daniella Ruiz combined for 31 kills to lead the way.

If Elmont, which will make its first postseason appearance in 17 years, knocks off Lawrence, a team that hasn’t won a match all season long, the Lady Spartans will enter the playoffs having won eight consecutive matches.

Long-time coach Terry Ianniello believes experience has had a lot to do with the team’s performance. “These are just amazing kids,” Ianniello said. “The girls have tremendous chemistry, the best we’ve had in a long time, and they have learned how to finish off the close matches. They’re a different kind of team. A wonderful group of girls with no egos, who have committed to being successful.”

Fadugba, a fifth-year varsity player, is the team’s go-to player. Using her extraordinary vertical leaping ability, Fadugba, a senior captain, has racked up 159 kills and 18 blocks. She’s also been strong from the service area, registering 55 aces for the season.

Ruiz doesn’t kill from over the top of the blockers like Fadugba, but nobody pounds the ball harder. The junior captain has 136 kills, including a career-high 21 in a four-set victory over Great Neck South on Oct. 11. Senior Lotanna Nwabudu had nine kills in the victory over Carey.

The Lady Spartans have received strong contributions from their middles. Senior captain Ekau Ashon and junior Brianna Moore are both formidable presences at the net. Ashon has 82 kills, 24 blocks, and 19 aces for the season. Moore leads the team with 30 blocks.

Ianniello can’t say enough good things about Kim Rodriguez. The junior libero reads and digs well, and displays tremendous grit and guts each time she takes the floor. Rodriguez, Fadugba, and Ruiz are all solid at serve receive. Brianna Johnson provides depth at defensive specialist.

All good volleyball teams have a setter who makes the team go and serves as the main cog in the offense. Senior Leilani Sears is that girl. Playing out of a 5-1 rotation, Sears has done a terrific job of dictating the team’s offense, and putting her hitters in position to kill. She has 312 assists, including a career-high 42 in the Carey match.

‘We’re the type of team that others are not going to want to face in the playoffs,” Ianniello said. “The girls are athletic, intelligent, confident, and unselfish. They’re the type of team that any coach would want to be around. I think we can make some noise in the playoffs.”

Neither the results of the Lawrence match, nor Elmont’s first round playoff opponent were available at press time.