Sluggish volleyball start sinks Spartans

The Spartans, who have reached the semis eight straight years and won three state championships alon
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Categories: High School Sports

Pick any sport, and just about any team would be thrilled to reach the state semi­finals. Sure, not winning it all would be tough, but just to get there would be considered quite an accomplishment.

Then there are the perennial powers, teams that get there year in and year out. There is some satisfaction in reaching the final four, but not winning? Well, that’s a major letdown. That’s the case for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball team, which went 2-4 in pool play on Saturday and failed to reach today’s Class A state championship game.

The Spartans, who have reached the semis eight straight years and won three state championships along the way, dropped their first four games (25-21 and 25-15 to Cornwall of Section IX and 25-19 and 25-21 to defending state champion Victor of Section V) at the Glens Falls Civic Center to get bounced from title contention.

Victor (6-0 in pool play) and Cornwall (3-3) will square off in the finals today. Burnt Hills topped East Hampton (1-5) of Section XI, 25-19 and 25-20, to claim third place.

“It’s a disappointing day for our team and for our program,” BH-BL coach Gary Bynon said. “But all credit goes to Cornwall and Victor. They both played very well. Cornwall came out ready to play, and we didn’t. I don’t know why.”

The Dragons built a 17-9 lead in the first game of the day, but BH-BL rallied to 23-21 behind strong play at the net by Maria Alloco, Kaitlyn Valade and Andrea Gorgen. But the comeback fell short when Cornwall’s Rachel Zsido dropped a winner into the center of the BH-BL alignment and followed with a service ace.

The second game started out close, but Cornwall outscored the Spartans, 14-5, down the stretch to close out a 25-15 victory.

“Cornwall’s libero [Gina Greco] was putting the ball to the target every time, and we kept serving to her,” Bynon said. “It comes down to us being able to serve and serve-receive, and we didn’t do either well enough today.”

After a break while East Hampton and Victor squared off, BH-BL was back on the court against Victor needing one win to stave off elim­ination and two to remain in reasonable shape to contend. In the first game, Victor led most of the way and earned a six-point victory.

With their season on the line in Game 2, the Spartans enjoyed their best stretch of the evening with a five-point flurry to go up, 17-11. Sophomore setter Natalie Ziskin started the rally with a brilliant no-look flip over the Victor front line for a winner. Victor followed with a four-point surge of its own.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake still led, 21-18, after Amy Douglas’ service winner, but Victor scored seven straight points, mostly on Spartan miscues, ending the Section II champ’s state title hopes.

Alloco finished the six games with 18 kills and eight blocks, Lizzy Morton had 11 kills and five blocks and Ziskin had 35 assists.

Bynon shrugged off a suggestion that the team’s youth (there are only three seniors on the roster) factored into its uneven performance.

“It’s got nothing to do with age,” he said. “As a team, we didn’t play up to our capabilities. That’s the bottom line.”

The Spartans, who brought a 23-3 record to the state semis, figure to be strong again next year, with everybody back except for Douglas, Gorgen and Erika Grattidge, who had shoulder surgery in September.

“These kids have played for us for a long time,” Bynon said of the seniors. “I’ll certainly miss what they bring to the program. I can’t say enough about them. Erika loses her season in September, but she’s been a rock for us all year.”

EAGLES ADVANCE

In Class C, Loudonville Christian advanced to today’s championship round in dramatic fashion. The Eagles beat Tioga (Section IV) 25-22 in a tie-breaking seventh game after they both finished pool play 3-3. The Loudonville school will square off against undefeated City Honors of Buffalo.

In Class B pool play, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk of the Colonial Council was eliminated after finishing with a 1-5 record. The Indians dropped two games each to defending state champion Hendrick Hudson (Section I) and Eden (Section VI), but then played spoiler by winning their first game against John Glenn (Section XI), which was still in the hunt at the time. Eden and Hendrick Hudson will play for the title today.

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