Shenendehowa, BH-BL volleyball get revenge

Section II champs beat teams that knocked them out of states in '16
Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake’s Zac Cabral spikes against Oswego’s Kyle Kon and Riley Mahoney during their sub-regional volleyball
Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake’s Zac Cabral spikes against Oswego’s Kyle Kon and Riley Mahoney during their sub-regional volleyball

CLIFTON PARK – Shenendehowa was up. Shenendehowa was down.

When the second set of Friday’s Division 1 sub-regional volleyball match with Cicero-North Syracuse was finally through, the Plainsmen were ahead again and pointed toward the state quarterfinals.

“I told the guys constantly in practice leading up to this that it doesn’t have to be perfect,” Shenendehowa coach John Coletta said after a sweep of the Section III champions. “‘You have to keep working and you have to keep playing. We know we’re going to make mistakes. Keep playing.'”

They did in that crazy second set, and strung seven unanswered points to close it out as part of  a 25-22, 26-24, 25-16 victory against the same team that ended their 2016 season.

Senior middle blocker Johnathan Kean served two aces in the closing run, including the finisher, that capped a comeback from a 24-19 deficit.

“I was trying to stay focused and trying to hit seams,” Kean said. “I went a little long with the last one. It stayed in.

“That gave us all the momentum. We couldn’t lose after that.”

It was a crucial second-set win for the Plainsmen (22-4), who also took the first set in last year’s regional final before Cicero-North Syracuse roared back with three straight. The Plainsmen opened state play in 2016 with a sub-regional win against Suffern. 

“Cicero-North Syracuse moves the ball and has good hitters,” Shenendehowa senior outside hitter Brendan Spulnick said. “Winning the second set gave us great energy. After John’s ace, I thought we would be going to the [regional] final.”

Shenendehowa will play at Clarkstown South on the Section I representatives’ court Saturday at 2 p.m., with that regional title-match winner gaining a spot in the state final four Nov. 18 at Suffolk County Community College.

 “That was a big hurdle for us as a program,” Coletta said. “CNS is a great program with great players. Today was a championship-level match.”

The second set saw the teams tied seven times and there were six lead changes, the last of those coming in the late comeback where Spulnick slugged down two of his 19 kills. His first started the rally with a kill  and his second pulled Shenendehowa even at 24.

“That was amazing,” Kean said of the comeback.

Cicero-North Syracuse (19-2) held a 10-8 lead in the third set when Shenendehowa strung four points and never trailed afterward. Cameron Severance served three consecutive aces in that 4-0 spurt, and Kean, Dylan Urbanski and Spuklnick later added aces.

Severance finished with 5 aces and Kean had 4, part of his 100 percent serving accuracy on 21 attempts.

“We want our guys to make aggressive serves,” Coletta said. “We want to take the other team out of what they want to do. Take them out of their system.”

Dylan Urbanski had 29 assists, 4 blocks and 10 digs for Shenendehowa, and Jack Normandin and Spencer Anderson totaled 8 and 5 kills, respectively. Anderson’s kill ended the first game in which Shenendehowa never trailed after going up 8-7. Normandin’s kill closed out the match.

“We’re playing at our best right now,” Spulnick said. “Everyone is on right now.”


Over and over it was defensive save, set up pass and kill for Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in its 25-16, 25-19, 25-19 Division 2 sub-regional win over Oswego at Shenendehowa.

“We pride ourselves on defense,” BH-BL senior outside hitter Brad Albright said. “Nothing touches ground. That’s what makes us different than other teams.”

It did Friday, with those digs setting  in motion a Burnt Hills offense that put together several key runs in a payback win against Oswego (Section III, 15-3). Oswego had eliminated the Spartans from the regionals in each of the last three years.

“Every year we beat them in a [regular season] tournament and they came back with new fire and new tricks,” Albright, a four-year varsity player, said after a 13-kill effort. “This year we were not going to let that happen.”

Burnt Hills (20-4) set the tone with an 8-0 run in the first set to overcome a 2-0 deficit, and never trailed in going up 1-0.

“My brother [Brien] got beat by those guys, and it hit him like a truck. Didn’t see it coming,” BH-BL senior outside hitter Luke Hollowood said. “I’ve lost to them. Senior year, I was determined to beat them.”

While Burnt Hills was impressive up front, defense and the play of junior setter Derek Haughey were among the first things Spartans’ coach Paul Sander wanted to talk about.

“We’ve had pretty tenacious defense all along. It doesn’t go away,” Sander said. “It’s something we focus on in practice. Seeing a lot of hard hit balls and reacting.”

Haughey 29 times assisted on points, often after defensive digs.

“Our setter did a great job,” Sander said. “He was able to get the ball to all different players including our back row attack.”

Seven-footer Zac Cabral had 13 kills, Jake Baker collected 9 kills and Hollowood had seven kills for a BH-BL team eyeing its first final four berth since 2013. Burnt Hills will play at Section I champ Eastchester Saturday at 5 p.m. in a regional final.

“We went out and played our best,” Cabral said. “It was now or never. Last year for us seniors. Let’s go out and win states.”

Albright had two kills and an ace in a 4-0 sput that pushed BH-BL’s advantage to 24-14 in the opening set. Cabral had a pair of kills in a 5-0 second-set run when BH-BL broke away from a 14-14 tie, and soon after he contributed another kills and an ace.

The Spartans led 8-7 in the third and pulled away with an 8-3 run that Haughry began with a block and Albright and Hollowood capped with kills.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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