Mekeel volleyball’s title bid falls short

Lose to Argyle in sectional final
Mekeel Christian Academy’s Kylie Islip and Sydney Ekstein block the ball against Argyle.
Mekeel Christian Academy’s Kylie Islip and Sydney Ekstein block the ball against Argyle.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Trying to break through in a sport defined in the area by its dynasties, Mekeel Christian Academy’s bid Friday for a program-first championship in girls’ volleyball was denied.

That hurt in the moment, but also provided motivation for a program on the rise.

“We’ll take our finalist plaque and go back to work,” Mekeel head coach Kevin Islip said. “We’ll enjoy it for a day or so, and then we’ll see what we can do about setting it up to make another run next year.”

Top-seeded Argyle prevailed Friday in the Section II Class D championship match with a 25-18, 25-15, 25-22 win. Simply getting to a final, though, was no easy task for Mekeel, which defeated Galway — last year’s Class C area champion — in five sets in the semifinals.

How rare — how out of the ordinary — what Mekeel accomplished with its finals appearance is perhaps best shown in comparison to the rest of this year’s Section II championship scene. In the match played right before Argyle won its second consecutive Class D title, Hudson Falls won its fourth consecutive sectional championship against a Broadalbin-Perth program playing in its fifth consecutive area final. Meanwhile, Saturday’s girls’ volleyball action includes Class A’s Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake seeking a record-breaking 16th area championship in a row, while Class AA’s Shenendehowa is looking for its eighth.

Among the 10 teams that made it to a sectional final this year, eight played in one last year. The Mekeel program had last played in a championship back in 2003, when as Schenectady Christian School it lost to Fort Edward.

“We’re very thankful for this season. We’re thankful for how God put us in this situation,” Mekeel senior Clare Nelson said. “We put a lot of hard work into this season. We pushed through and kept saying we had to get to our goal — and our goal was push our hardest every game. We did that.”

Mekeel led 6-2 in the first set, but Argyle used an 8-0 run to gain control on its way to winning the first game. The second set saw the Lions call an early timeout following a 9-2 start for Argyle, but Mekeel never fully recovered from its poor start. 

In the third set, Mekeel used an 8-0 run to go ahead 14-13, but later found itself trailing 24-17. A 5-0 run served as the season’s last gasp for the Lions before Argyle finished off the match.

“They gave everything they had,” Islip said. 

For Mekeel, Nelson finished with nine kills and 10 digs, while senior Mackenzie Islip had 23 assists. Senior Sydney Ekstein added seven kills and senior Paula Armstrong had 12 digs.

“Argyle played really well. You can’t take anything away from them,” coach Islip said. “They’re just a strong team and they were ready. They deserved to win.”

While crediting his seniors for their leadership during the 2017 season, coach Islip said his program is in good shape for the future.

“We have some girls in the pipeline,” he said. “We’re hoping this is the start of something.”

Tigers top Patriots

In the Section II Class B final, top-seeded Hudson Falls beat second-seeded Broadalbin-Perth 25-22, 25-13, 25-15.

After a back-and-forth first set, Hudson Falls trailed early in the second before ending that game on a 23-6 run.

“The trainwreck hit in the second game,” Broadalbin head coach Mike Calvello said. “I couldn’t tell you. I have no explanation. I don’t know what happened.”

Broadalbin has struggled against Hudson Falls in recent years during Foothills Council play. After losing that first set, Calvello said his team’s past losses against Hudson Falls perhaps played a role in the Patriots’ next two sets getting out of control.  

“This is some incentive to prepare for next year,” Calvello said.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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