NISKAYUNA — A quick glance or brief hand motion is all it takes to get seniors Katie Atchinson and Cat Schiavi on the same page on the court.
The Niskayuna girls’ volleyball captains have been together since they were freshmen. By now, when they’re in sync, they make the Silver Warriors go.
“We go from the school season to club season [and] we’re still playing together,” Schiavi said. “We basically now at practice run different plays, but no matter what, because we’ve had four years together, we’ve been in sync and we’re just really confident with running new plays with each other, and I think that works really well because we’re able to run different things against teams that they don’t necessarily expect.”
Their chemistry was the key to their team’s dominant straight-set victory Wednesday night over Troy, 25-11, 25-11, 25-23.
Schiavi had a match-high 11 kills, along with nine digs, while Atchinson had a match-high 20 assists and seven digs of her own.
However, the strength of Niskayuna’s leadership duo, especially through the first two sets, was not only quantifiable on the scoresheet.
“Obviously, they were in sync,” said Silver Warriors head coach Christina Coons, “and it’s really great when, as a coach, you can kind of step back and have that senior leadership with each other and kind of talk about what kind of offense they want to run and switch things up and let them control the game.”
The reigning Section II Class AA champions took control of the match with a strong, team serving performance. Niskayuna was able to spread Troy (1-6) to all corners of the court and make its combination play just that much more difficult.
“We do a big focus on serving and passing throughout our practices everyday,” Coons said, “so serve-receive and serving is something that we get lots and lots of reps of, and I really like to focus in on making sure we can serve to all six zones and really stretch each other in practice so we can have those opportunities in the match.”
Niskayuna (7-1) weathered a small challenge from the Flying Horses (1-6) in the second set before several Troy errors swung momentum back to the hosts, but the third set became much more of a grind.
As the match moved along, the Silver Warriors took advantage of their large edge to begin trying new things in different situations. Coons used both of her timeouts late in the third game at 17-all and at match point, up 24-22, to refocus her team.
“Just back to basics, making sure that our footwork is where it needs to be when we’re passing. We were just not quite getting to the ball close enough. Then, just staying disciplined in our jobs,” she said.
In the end, it was Atchinson, the setter, who finished the match for Niskayuna. She found the open space to drop in two of her team’s last three winners in crunch time, including match point.
“Just seeing how deep their defense was,” she said. “I did it before early in the game and it worked, so I was like, ‘Why not do it again,’ ” and it worked again, which as a setter, you’ve got to know when things are working and when they aren’t and that was working today. So, to finish it off, why not do that again.”
Set scores: 25-11, 25-11, 25-23. Troy highlights: Alarcon 6 kills, 3 digs, 1 block; Bruno 4 blocks. Niskayuna highlights: Schiavi 11 kills, 9 digs, 1 ace; Levine 3 kills, 9 digs; Atchinson 20 assists, 7 digs, 2 aces; Mason 15 digs, 1 ace.