Burnt Hills boys’ volleyball takes marathon fourth set, tops Shenendehowa

Kevin Cullen of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake drives the ball past Shenendehowa's Will Licata during Thursday's Suburban Council volleyball match on the Spartans' court.
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Kevin Cullen of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake drives the ball past Shenendehowa's Will Licata during Thursday's Suburban Council volleyball match on the Spartans' court.

BURNT HILLS — Back and forth the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball teams went Thursday night before one last comeback lifted the Spartans to a marathon win.

Gavin Sweet served an ace, and fellow junior Aidan Calhoun followed with a scoring block to cap a crazy 35-33 victory and a 3-1 Suburban Council team triumph for the resilient hosts.

“I’ve never been involved with one like that,” veteran Burnt Hills coach Paul Sander said of the fourth set.

Two of the first three sets were decided with extra points as a prelude to the lengthy match finisher, which was tied nine times after a Burnt Hills bid went out of bounds and left the teams even at 24.

“It was great volleyball on both sides,” Calhoun said. “In the end, a few balls happened to drop on their side.”

Among them was a net ball that pulled Burnt Hills into a 33-33 tie, and Sweet followed with his ace, tucking the ball into the corner on the Shenendehowa side.

“It came with a lot of focus. When I get to the [serving] line, I focus on myself because there are a lot of different noises,” Sweet said. “I had a lot of hope in that. I really wanted to make that.”

In a game that featured outstanding net plays by both teams, Calhoun went high for the last of them as he snuffed out the Plainsmen’s attempt to force another tie with his seventh block.

“That was two great teams going at it,” Calhoun said.

Burnt Hills held a 23-16 lead in the fourth set, and Shenendehowa put together an 8-1 run to pull even. The teams followed with some superb rallies that included numerous clutch saves.

“It was great competition,” Sweet said. “We all know each other from club and we’re friends, but in the end I’m glad we pulled it out.”

Burnt Hills won the first two sets 27-25 and 25-22, and Shenendehowa won the third 29-27 in the match pitting the two teams that have dominated Section II boys’ volleyball in recent years. Both of them defended Section II championships and made state tournament appearances after the last league season was contested in the fall of 2019.

“It was close all the way through,” Sander said. “Every game could have gone either way.”

“Burnt Hills played a cleaner match than we did. Better all-around volleyball,” Shenendehowa coach John Coletta said. “We need a lot of work, but as far as competitiveness, both teams wanted to win really bad.”

The two teams will meet again April 22 at Shenendehowa, and could possibly square off a third time should there be a league tournament in the closing week of the “Fall II” season.

“We’re already looking forward to it,” Coletta said. “We came out of it on the other side tonight, and that’s okay. We’ll keep working and we’ll get better.”

Burnt Hills trailed 24-22 in the first set and 20-17 in the second before rallying to win those. Late in both sets, Sander had called a timeout to settle his young cast that includes only three seniors. Kevin Cullen, Cam Knight and Jake Leggieri.

“During those timeouts, we regrouped. We were able to focus up,” Calhoun said. “We came out strong and kept pounding balls.”

Burnt Hills had held several leads in a match at Columbia last Friday, yet could not finish in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Devils. That match ended when Calhoun was called for lift.

“That gave me a little experience as far as staying calm and keeping the focus up in a tight match,” Calhoun said.

Sander believes Thursday’s win could go a long way for his 3-1 Spartans, who got 20 assists from Aidan Calhoun, four kills and six blocks from his brother Liam, six kills and 16 defensive digs from Ben Pearce, and 17 digs from Knight.

“I think it shows some growth. It was just the opposite of Columbia, where we gave away the leads we had,” Sander said. “From my standpoint, I hope it extends to the future. Our confidence should be much improved.”

Jason Aubrey had 13 kills for Shenendehowa (2-1), and the Plainsmen’s lone freshman, Bennett Wilson, collected 12 kills. CJ Ilert added 22 digs.

Set scores: 27-25, 25-22, 27-29, 35-33. Shenendehowa highlights: Wilson 12 kills, Aubrey 13 kills, Oliert 22 digs. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake highlights: A. Calhoun 20 assists, 7 blocks, L. Calhoun 4 kills, 6 blocks, Pearce 6 kills, 16 digs, Knight 17 digs.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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