Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball senior setter Claire Isaksen, who played a significant role in the Spartans’ run to the state Class A title in 2019, will play her college volleyball for Siena College of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Isaksen is the second member of the Burnt Hills team to make a Division I college commitment after junior outside hitter Carlie Rzeszotarski announced in December her plans to play at Colgate. Both Isaksen and Rzeszotarski earned all-state first-team honors after that 2019 season when the Spartans tied a school record with 31 wins.
“One of their setters decided to leave, and that opened a spot on the Siena team,” Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon said. “Claire talked with their coach [Villis Ozols]. They wanted to offer her a . . . scholarship.”
“The opportunity arose, and I couldn’t say no,” the 17-year-old Isaksen said.
Isaksen played behind Avery Pollard as a freshman in 2017, earned the starting setter job the following season and has emerged as one of the most gifted and productive setters in Burnt Hills volleyball history.
“Being in the Burnt Hills program definitely helped me improve,” Isaksen said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of coach Bynon and my teammates.”
Bynon said Isaksen’s growth from a very good player to a star performer came with diligence.
“The thing I’ll always remember about her is, before starting practice or during a water break, she’s setting the ball against the wall,” Bynon said. “She always does the little things.”
“When I get in the gym, I want to take every opportunity to get better,” said Isaksen, who earlier this week was named a Suburban Council “Fall II” season first-team all-star. “Even when we play basketball in gym class, I’ll be setting it against the wall.”
Isaksen entered this week’s Suburban Council tournament with 2,493 assists, which is No. 2 on the school’s all-time list. She had 30 assists Saturday, when Burnt Hills defeated Galway in three sets to complete a 17-0 regular season.
“Who knows what she may have been able to do if we didn’t have the shortened season,” Bynon said.
Isaksen collected 37 assists when Burnt Hills beat West Irondequoit in three sets and captured the school’s seventh state championship in late November of 2019, and she landed a spot on the all-tournament team.
“The setter is your quarterback. Look at football. You’re not going anywhere without a good quarterback,” Bynon said. “She spreads the ball around the front line, but understands the hot hand. She figures out blockers on the other side. All of that goes through her head.”
Isaksen, who began playing when she was in third grade and has enhanced her skills in the Lakeside Volleyball Club, thoroughly enjoys being in the middle of the action.
“I love touching the ball on every point and playing an important role on the team,” she said.
A high honors student, Isaksen said at Siena she will be majoring in psychology with a minor in biology. On the court, she will be working with Ozols, as well as Mike Bynon, Gary Bynon’s son and a Siena assistant coach.
“I am so excited to have this opportunity to play at that level,” Isaksen said.
Siena played a shortened spring season and finished 1-7 after a semifinal loss in the MAAC tournament.