BURNT HILLS — A rivalry matchup between the Shenendehowa and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball squads, two area powerhouse programs, remains a highlight of each Suburban Council season.
Even a months-long delay due to restrictions related to COVID-19 could not dampen the mood surrounding their first match-up of the 2020-21 academic year.
For the Spartans, it was sure worth the wait.
Burnt Hills celebrated its senior night, and its first contest with spectators during this “Fall II” season, in its home gym with a 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 win Friday night.
“To be in this environment, with two good teams playing at a [high] level, it’s what you missed,” Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon said.
“We talked about a lot of the things that we could expect out of them — fast offense, smart play, solid defense, good serving — all the typical things that they do,” Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler said. “We tried to do our best to prepare for that, but we also haven’t faced a team like that yet, so I expected that we would have some weakness exposed, which certainly happened.”
Burnt Hills was led by outside hitter Carlie Rzeszotarski with 22 kills, while setter Claire Isaksen provided 32 assists on the night.
The Spartan left side of outside hitters, Rzeszotarski and Callie Chevalier, were a dominant force in the first two sets. For the third set, Bynon made some adjustments to keep the Plainsmen off-balance.
“You can’t just sit against a good team like Shen and just set them [left side] every time,” Bynon said. “That’s how important our middles are and our right sides [outside hitters] are; it takes the pressure off of [Rzeszotarski and Chevalier].”
The high school volleyball season traditionally starts in August and ends in November. This academic year’s season, though, didn’t start until March as part of the “Fall II” season that was created to house sports that didn’t get to compete during their traditional times of the year because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Before the pandemic, a gymnasium with Burnt Hills and Shenendehowa playing inside of it would have featured a standing-room-only crowd, packed with fans from both sides cheering each big hit and diving save made by both sides. Due to current spectator limitations – two fans per athlete – the smaller crowd had to make up the difference by cheering with even more enthusiasm than usual.
“Even though it was a small crowd, since we weren’t used to having people, it definitely filled the gym and was a different feeling,” Isaksen said. “The energy is definitely higher.”
“It felt normal and was really exciting,” Rzeszotarski said of playing in front of a home crowd.
Shenendehowa was led by Rose Talty’s six kills and four blocks, while Erika Macken added 13 assists.