Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball coach Gary Bynon is asking the same thing from his young team that he asked from his most senior-laden squads, and it has nothing to do with winning matches and championships.
“Our goal is to get better. Always has been,” said Bynon, who started building the Spartan dynasty in the fall of 1988. “People talk about the league titles and the streak and the state championships. We don’t aim for any of that.
“If it’s in front of us, we’re going to go for it and try to win, but our objective is to improve every day. When it’s all said and done, if we do that, I’m a happy coach.”
Bynon believes he has a group that will meet his demands. He had nine of them on his team last season when Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake won its 21st consecutive Suburban Council division championship, its 14th Section II banner and 10th regional title before placing third in the state Class A tournament.
“With any successful program, it doesn’t come easy. It comes with a lot of hard work, and these girls are workers,” said Bynon, whose teams have won three state titles and finished second in New York twice since 2002. “They had a great offseason. They played club from December to May and improved so much, and I can see that continuing. They’re willing to put in the time and effort.”
This year’s team has only three seniors in Andrea Gorgen, Amy Douglas and Erika Grattidge, and two juniors, both 6-foot-1, in Maria Allocco and Victoria Dexter. Allocco, a middle blocker, was named to the all-state first team last year after leading the 22-3 Spartans in kills (382) and blocks (149).
“She’s our go-to player,” Bynon said. “She was ranked one the top 79 sophomores in the country at the end of the  season. She’s strong, and she’s improved so much.”
Allocco had 14 kills and 10 blocks during BH-BL’s four-game win over Troy in the Section II Class A final last November, while setter Natalie Ziskin totaled 29 assists. Ziskin is back in the fold, too, along with fellow sophomores Elizabeth Morton, Kaitlyn Valade and Ally Coniglione.
Burnt Hills has four players from its 21-0 junior varsity team in sophomore Jeanelle Braun and freshmen Molly McCormack, Jill Nikolski and Siena Wilder.
“We have a very athletic group, some size, some experience, and we can serve it,” Bynon said. “We had one of our best serving teams last year, and this one might be better.”
Last year’s team extended BH-BL’s Suburban Council winning steak to 265 matches, and gave Bynon his 450th career victory when it swept Massena in the regionals. Bynon’s overall record is 450-41 heading into Thursday’s season opener at home against Niskayuna.
New coach optimistic
One-hit wonder? Travis Herron, Schenectady’s first-year girls’ swimming and diving coach, doesn’t believe so.
“We popped up on some people’s radars last year. I think more people will be taking notice,” said Herron, who worked with the Lady Patriots last season as a varsity assistant. “I think we’ll do well. We have the potential.”
Herron has taken over for Leo Rouse, who in his only season guided Schenectady to a 7-2 mark and second place in the Aqua League, and a 9-5 overall record. Schenectady capped its 2008 season with a 10th-place effort at the Section II championships, where three team records were set.
“We’ve got a lot of returning kids, and some strong kids coming up,” said Herron. “I’m optimistic.”
Schenectady has only one senior this year in Jenna Wiest, but a strong junior group led by Sabia Filiaci, Alexa Lawyer, Mollie Orr and Arianna Wise, to go along with sophomore Madeleine Cleworth and freshman Noel Leszczynski.
Filiaci set a team record in the 100-yard butterfly (1:04.76), and placed fifth at the 2008 Section II meet. She also swam with Lawyer and Leszczynski on a school
record-setting 200 free relay (1:51.02), and with Lesczcynski on a school record-setting 200 medley relay (2:05.33). Those relays finished 10th and ninth, respectively.
“I would like to lower our times and get more girls to the sectionals. I also want to promote the program and get younger kids in the pool,” said Herron, a physical education teacher at Woodlawn Elementary School. “I want to build the program. Make it a little better each year.”
Herron said he’s extremely pleased with what he’s seen in the preseason from his 32 varsity athletes.
“Preseason is hard, but the girls have come out every day and given me 100 percent,” he said. “I’m very satisfied with where we are.”
Schenectady opens its season Sept. 9 at Amsterdam, and has additional road meets at Albany Academy and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk before its home debut Sept. 18 against Troy.
Zebrowski among elite
Thirteen-year-old Zachary Zebrowski, a freshman-to-be at Niskayuna High School, will represent the United States as a member of Coast to Coast Baseball in Puerto Rico next summer.
The middle infielder was selected by Coast to Coast staff members based on his hitting, fielding, arm strength and speed at a recent tryout in Latham. He will play in a series of games for an age 13-15 team while also receiving expert instruction during the seven-day program.
Each summer and fall Coast to Coast sees approximately 2,000 players at a series of nation-wide tryouts. From this pool, approximately 250 roster spots — comprising 15-18 teams — are filled with players who will compete internationally.
Zebrowski hit .320 as the leadoff batter on Niskayuna’s freshman team last spring.
The Apex Girls Lacrosse Club will conduct a free seminar for those planning to play women’s college lacrosse on Tuesday at the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club.
The event for girls entering ninth, 10th and 11th grade will run from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Presenters Mary-Lynne McKee, Kristen Neary and Kelly Lephardt will discuss a variety of topics, including how to prepare an athletic and academic resume, what tournaments and camps athletes should be attending, what tools are available to help pick the right school, and what college coaches are looking for.
More information can be obtained at www.apexgirlslax.com. Register by e-mailing [email protected]
Terry Martin has stepped down as Queensbury’s field hockey coach after a 32-year run, which included nearly 400 victories and eight Section II championships.
Queensbury captured five Section II Class A titles under Martin, its last in 2005 when the Spartans reached the state final four. Martin was named the Section II Class A Coach of the Year that season, when her team went undefeated in the Foothills Council.
Sarah Currier, a former Queensbury player and 1999 graduate of the school, has taken over for Martin. Currier previously served as a varsity assistant at Saratoga Springs.
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: High School Sports