Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake vs. Bethlehem: Eagles end Spartans’ win streak

The long streak is over, halted by a bunch of believers from Bethlehem Central High School.

The long streak is over, halted by a bunch of believers from Bethlehem Central High School.

“We proved to ourselves that we could beat them at our place, and we came out from the first point and played our best volleyball of the season,” Eagles coach Rick Arket said after his team dealt the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys their first Suburban Council defeat since the 2003 season. “Everyone stepped up. The seniors, the juniors, everyone stepped up.”

Bethlehem set the tone with a 25-22 first-game win, and took the next two, as well, 25-18 and 25-23, before a frenzied crowd in the Spartans’ gymnasium Tuesday night.

Kyle Landrigan had 14 kills for the Eagles, including three straight to close out the final game as his team rallied from a 23-21 deficit.

“This feels great. I’m proud of my team,” said Landrigan, a senior setter who also finished off the second game with a kill. “It feels really good to get this win. We’ve been waiting for this. We came out knowing we could take this one from them.”

Burnt Hills had prevailed in 133 straight league matches since a 2003 loss to Bethlehem. Burnt Hills won its final eight matches that year, went 18-0 in each of the next six years, and brought a 17-0 mark into Tuesday’s showdown to end the regular season.

Burnt Hills (19-3 overall) ended up as the league’s North Division champion. Bethlehem (17-1, 18-3) secured the league’s South Div­ision crown.

“They’ve got good players,” BH-BL senior setter Jordan Armstrong said of the Eagles. “They had a goal in mind to beat us, and they brought it to us.

“They limited their errors, and took advantage of our errors. The better team won tonight.”

“We were loose on the bus ride over,” said Arket. “We knew the pressure was on Burnt Hills. They had everything to lose, and we had nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Burnt Hills took the first go-round with Bethlehem on Oct. 1, winning a marathon on the Eagles’ court, 25-22, 25-23, 23-25, 17-25, 25-15, to extend its league streak to 125 matches. The streak reached 133 with Friday’s 25-13, 25-15, 25-12 sweep of Mohonasen.

“This was a four-year process for us, and we had to take the last step,” said Arket. “Our guys put the work in. They committed themselves in the offseason. They believed and I believed, and we came out on top.”

“Our guys fought hard, and they weren’t overwhelmed. It wasn’t our night,” said Burnt Hills coach Paul Sander. “We didn’t have our best serve receive, and we weren’t as productive hitting as we have been. Bethlehem, on the other hand, played some excellent volleyball. They blocked well. They passed well. They played better than when we faced them down there.”

Burnt Hills played some of its best ball in the third game, but to no avail, as charged-up Beth­lehem surged late to complete the sweep.

“After we got them in the first two games, we expected them to come at us with everything they had, and they did, but we had to have that one,” Landrigan said. “We didn’t want to go four games. We didn’t want them to get the momentum on their side.”

Ryan Stempsey and Mike Carrk excelled at the net for the Eagles, combining for 15 kills and 12 blocks, while Landrigan had five blocks and a team-leading 25 assists.

“Our middles played great, and I was really pleased with our serve receive and our passing on defense. The guys played with confidence. The guys communicated,” Arket said. “The last time we played them, we let a lot of soft stuff fall. We said, ‘We’re not going to let the ball drop.’ ”

“Ever since we lost to them at our place, we worked hard getting ready for this rematch,” said Landrigan, whose two kills and stuff block sparked a 6-1, game-two run that gave the Eagles an 18-8 advantage. “We did a lot of work on fundamentals of the sport.”

Armstrong led BH-BL with eight kills, four blocks and 18 assists.

Jimmy Keyes and Ketryk Wilder both added six kills.

“We’re still very optimistic. There’s still sectionals, and that’s the important one,” said Sander. “We need to make a couple of adjustments. We need to work on a couple of matchups. We got caught a couple of times.”

Bethlehem will be the No. 1 Section II tournament seed, and Burnt Hills will be No. 2, Sander said, because the Eagles won five of the eight games played between the teams.

Sectionals begin Friday with preliminary games.

“As important as this is, our overall goal is to win sectionals,” said Arket. “We’ll probably have to beat Burnt Hills again to achieve that goal, and it won’t be easy. Burnt Hills is a great program with great players.”

“On Nov. 6, we’ll probably be playing them again [in the sectional final], and we’re going to bring it again,” said Landrigan.

“I’m looking forward to our preparation as a team,” said Armstrong. “I want to see how we handle this and how we push ourselves.”

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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