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Wantagh girls volleyball takes Long Island Class A championship

The Wantagh girls volleyball team had big shoes to fill on Saturday night.

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Seniors Olivia Pugliese and Sarah Rende have sisters, Julia Pugliese and Kayla Rende, who won the Class A state title in 2018, and the duo wanted to keep the legacy alive.

That they did. Wantagh defeated Kings Park, 25-12, 9-25, 25-17, 25-18, to claim the Long Island Class A championship at LIU Post.

Wantagh (16-2) came out confident and went on a nine-point run to take a 19-10 lead in the first set.

“The girls started the game on fire,” Wantagh coach Dan O’Shea said. “They trusted themselves and used their sisters as motivation to come out strong.”

The Kingsmen (18-3) responded with a dominant second set led by Jess Forneiro and Cassandra Genduso.

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Fueled by his sister’s influence, Pugliese regained the advantage in the third set by using the game strategy she had learned over the years.

“My sister has always been my role model, and I used to travel with my parents to watch her compete,” said Pugliese, who recorded 18 digs, eight kills and 5 aces. “She inspired me to rise in this very moment and I knew I had to win.”

Wantagh was in cruise control in the fourth set taking a 19-11 lead before closing it out 25-18.

“I got to live in my sister’s legacy, which is awesome,” said Rende, who added 23 assists and 18 digs. “My sister gave me tips on how to perform well in high-pressure moments.”

Wantagh will be competing in the state tournament in Glen Falls next Saturday, and O’Shea has his team feeling confident.

“We are going to play as hard as we can, but I really do think we can win the whole thing,” Pugliese said.

Freshman Sadie Reich had a strong showing with 16 digs, 12 kills and two aces. Jamie Connors added 12 digs and two aces and kills each.

“The girls really trusted each other and trusted the process out there,” O’Shea said. “The experience and leadership will carry this team to the end.”

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