The impending end of a season can be great motivation.
Guilderland came back again and again in Friday’s Section II Class AA girls’ volleyball championship at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, playing some of its best points under the most pressure. Ultimately, though, Shenendehowa was too tough late and took its second consecutive title, 25-14, 21-25, 25-23, 30-28. The Plainsmen play a regional game next Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse..
“I was surprised for a while when we were up [22-14]. It was a lot,” Shenendehowa outside hitter Hunter Drews said. “We let them in, and they played hard to push us to our limit. We were hanging on by our fingertips.”
After Shenendehowa worked a strong first game, the Lady Dutch recovered to show why they were in the finals for the first time in 33 years. They played consistently to even the match while the Lady Plainsmen started hitting wide and long on key points.
Shenenedehowa recovered for the third game, with freshman setter Hayley Macken setting up points for MaryKate McCarroll, Morgan Robinson and Drews in a run that put the Lady Plainsmen up, 22-15.
Then Guilderland flipped a switch and came back to trail, 24-23, before Macken set up McCarroll again.
A couple of solid hits by Guilderland’s Allison VanDoren, set up by Quincy Kinzel, were highlights of the rally.
“This team is a comeback team,” Allen said. “When we went into the fourth set, I said, ‘OK, this is where you shine.’ And they did, and we lost it as close as it was. But they were my comeback kids. They never quit. They actually play their best when the pressure is on.”
It was like a not-so-instant replay late in the fourth game, when Macken set up Taylor Murphy for back-to-back kills for a 22-14 Shenendehowa lead.
Then, sparked by a VanDoren kill, back roared the Lady Dutch. They even led, 26-25 and 28-27, serving for the game.
VanDoren and Amanda Kernozek both finished the match with nine kills. VanDoren also had eight digs, while Kernozek had six digs and seven service points.
Trailing, 28-27, Macken set up Drews for an emphatic kill to tie it up. Fittingly, the girl named Hunter led in kills with 18.
A miss-hit ball by Guilderland brought Shenendehowa within a point of their championship. They finished it off with Drews and Murphy stuffing a Guilderland hit.
“It’s honestly amazing,” Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler said. “It’s been our team goal since the very beginning of the season, to make it to this point and to do a back-to-back championship.”
Drews also had three aces, four blocks and eight points. Macken finished with 47 assists, three aces and 10 points.
Drews had plenty of help up front, as Robinson had 11 kills, McCarroll had eight, and Murphy finished with seven kills and seven blocks.
The front line for the Lady Plainsmen shook off an inaccurate second game, each of the girls taking turns stepping up when another faltered for a point or two.
“When you make a mistake, it’s hard because you feel like you’re letting your team down,” Drews said. “But if someone was having a hard time, the other girls made sure they got it done. I think we definitely came together as a team, and that’s why we came out on top.”
Drews and company benefitted from Macken’s poise, the freshman performing at a level beyond her years.
“We forget that she’s a freshman. She’s mature for her age,” Drews said. “She’s been with us a while now, we all know her and are comfortable with her. She’s definitely got a lot of pressure on her, but I think she handles it so well. I give her all the credit in the world for holding our team together. I think she’s the rock of our team.”
The Lady Plainsmen won last year for the first time in 20 years, then bowed out in regional play. Now, having been there and done that, Drews said the goal for this squad is to get to states.
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Categories: High School Sports