GALWAY — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake senior setter Claire Isaksen could see the difference during the second non-league volleyball match between her team and Galway.
“We played them earlier in the season,” Isaksen said Saturday after the Spartans’ three-set win in the Eagles’ gym. “They’ve improved so much.”
That was the objective when Galway coach Mike Glenn set up a series of non-league matches between his Class D squad and some of the best the Suburban Council has to offer.
Class A-sized Burnt Hills won Saturday’s match 25-10, 25-11, 25-19, after prevailing against the Eagles on March 27 by scores of 25-5, 25-17, 25-8.
“We build our program around playing the best teams possible,” said Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon. “Mike has had that attitude, and you can see how his program is developing.”
Galway played Niskayuna twice and Shenedehowa once to go with its two go-rounds with Burnt Hills, which features several players from the 2019 edition that secured the program’s seventh state championship.
“I love a challenge,” said Glenn, who guided the Eagles to a Section II title and a state Class D semifinal appearance in 2019. “With no tournaments this year, I reached out, and Gary said, ‘Let’s play two.’ Then we set up matches with Niskayuna and Shenendehowa.”
Earlier this month, Galway took the first set at Niskayuna in a 3-1 setback before sweeping the Silver Warriors when the teams played again. In late March, Shenendehowa beat Galway in three.
“It counts, but it doesn’t really count,” said Glenn, whose Eagles are 8-0 in Western Athletic Conference matches and 12-4 overall. “It’s going to make us better. They are the best teams in the area.”
“I am really thankful for the opportunity to play them. I am glad our coach reached out,” said Galway junior outside hitter Julia Reedy, who competes with some of the Burnt Hills girls in the Lakeside Volleyball Club. “It’s a lot different playing in the WAC than playing them. They play faster, and that will help us play faster and better.”
Burnt Hills came out clicking in the first two sets, with the Spartans sharp defensively and working their offensive plays. The Spartans built a 15-5 edge to start the match and raced to 6-0 and 12-5 leads in the second set.
“We need to see that style,” said Glenn, who is losing only two seniors, middle Diana Colangelo and libero Katy Kurtzner, to graduation. “It will help prepare us for the fall. This is about them getting to see it, wanting to do it and believing they can do it.”
Niskayuna’s resume includes the 2019 Section II Class AA title, and that is a prize Shenendehowa earned in each of the nine years before that. Burnt Hills won its 18th straight Section II title in 2019, and last week wrapped up its 33rd straight Suburban Council division title.
“I’d do that, too, if I could,” Isaksen said of Galway’s willingness to compete way above its class. “You always want to play the best teams.”
“If you want to be good, you’ve got to see what the best is,” Bynon added.
Galway seemed to pick up its game as Saturday’s match progressed, and those 19 points it scored in the third set were the most Burnt Hills (17-0) has surrendered during the “Fall II” season.
“Credit to Galway,” Bynon said. “They got us on our heels a little.”
A kill by Reedy and a block by 6-foot-4 junior teammate Sadie Underwood helped Galway take a 15-13 lead in the third set before Burnt Hills answered with a 7-1 run.
“That third set was probably the best set we’ve ever played,” said Reedy, who collected nine kills to reach 1,000 for her career. “We were communicating and executing.”
“Burnt Hills is the best team in the state,” Glenn said. “Knowing they can go point for point with a team like that builds confidence for the rest of the season and going into next year.”
Kurtzner anchored Galway’s defense with 21 digs, and Colangelo chipped in with three kills and two blocks.
Colgate-bound Carlie Rzeszotarski had 17 kills and seven digs for Burnt Hills, Callie Chevalier had 13 kills and Isaksen totaled 30 assists.
A Colangelo kill had Galway within 23-19 in the third set before Chevalier and Rzeszoratski delivered kills for the Spartans.
Set scores: 25-10, 25-11, 25-19. Burnt Hills highlights: Rzeszotarski 17 kills, 7 digs; Chevalier 13 kills; Isaksen 30 assists. Galway highlights: Reedy 9 kills; Kurtzner 21 digs.