NISKAYUNA — A streak-bursting win behind it, the Niskayuna girls’ volleyball team is ready for its next great challenge.
With a four-set win last week against Shenendehowa in the Section II Class AA championship match, Niskayuna denied Shenendehowa a 10th consecutive area title and sent itself into the state playoffs. Head coach Christina Coons’ team plays Section III’s Baldwinsville for a regional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jamesville-DeWitt.
With a spot in the following weekend’s state final four in Glens Falls at stake, Niskayuna brings confidence into its match against Baldwinsville after knocking off the Plainsmen.
“It was pretty unbelievable. Beating Shen was great. Last year, we went to the finals and thought we could win, but this season we had a sense this was our goal and we are going to do this,” Coons said. “We only lost one starter from last year’s lineup, so this year, coming into the season, we had a lot of consistency from what we were doing the year before, so I think we were able to build upon what we had already started last year.”
“Losing last year fueled us. In the sectional final, we thought, ‘This is it, third time’s the charm. We cannot let them take it again,’” senior Stefana Stan said. “We wanted to beat them. The energy was really consistent both on and off the court, which was very important. We knew we had to play calm.”
The Silver Warriors did that, as the steady improvement the program has shown during Coons’ five-season tenure paid off in a big way.
“We’ve really focused on putting our team first, getting them to have that team mentality and celebrate everything we do well, so that we can build on that,” Coons said. “My first year we were 8-8, but didn’t have that volleyball IQ, which is what I’ve been trying to give them to help them understand why we do certain things.”
“She’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, I’ve had her the past four years,” Stan said. “Without her, we wouldn’t be here. She’s so dedicated to volleyball, and everything she does, she does with heart and passion. We’re all so thankful for the opportunities that she provides for us.”
Niskayuna now has a shot at being one of the state’s four remaining Class AA teams left standing.
“We’ve watched film on Baldwinsville and are sticking to the same offensive plan we had against Shen,” Niskayuna senior Sophie Sacco said. “We want to start fast, overwhelm and force them to make . . . errors. We need a fast offense, commit no unforced errors and have good communication.”
IN OTHER ACTION
Besides Niskayuna, four other Section II girls’ volleyball teams will compete Saturday for regional championships.
In Class A, Burnt Hills will play at Jamesville-DeWitt, at 1 p.m., against the host school.
In matches at Beekmantown, Broadalbin-Perth will play Peru in a noon Class B contest; Lake George will take on Saranac Lake in a 2 p.m. Class C matchup; and, Class D’s Galway will play Northern Adirondack at 4 p.m.