GLOVERSVILLE — They may be small in size and in terms of numbers, but the girls on the Gloversville volleyball team have a big pile of wins and not a single dent on their ledger.
“Every year coach has us write down our goals, and every one of us wrote down ‘Go undefeated,'” Gloversville senior outside hitter Madelyn Avery said before Thursday’s practice. “We thought we could do it because of all the experience we have. We all had the same vision.”
With its roster of seven, including six seniors, Gloversville stood at 11-0 in the Foothills Council and 14-0 overall after a four-set win over Johnstown Wednesday. The Huskies have one game remaining against Amsterdam, and whether it gets played or not because of Montgomery County’s seven-day coronavirus rolling average, no team can catch the league’s South Division leaders.
“We haven’t been the best in 45 years. The girls have wanted that since seventh grade,” Gloversville coach Duane Hicks said. “Playing in the spring and not the fall. No fans. Wearing the masks. All of that, and they were ready to go.”
Back in the summer and before the fall volleyball season was called off due to coronavirus restrictions, Goversville had put together a beefed up schedule to aid its preparation for what it hoped would be a run to the Section II Class A title match after a semifinal setback in 2019.
The goal changed for the “Fall II” season, where Gloversville’s schedule was filled mostly with Foothills Council South teams and had no postseason opportunities.
“We knew what we had,” said Gloversville senior outside hitter Macey Salvione, who, like Avery, has been with the varsity team since she was in eighth grade. “We couldn’t wait for this year and wanted to make the most of it.”
Hicks envisioned a special season for his senior group way back when they were playing modified ball as seventh-graders.
“I got to know them while I was helping out with the modified team,” Hicks said. “I saw the potential. They saw it, too. They worked their butts off for it and did it.”
That aim to go undefeated, though, appeared to be put in jeopardy when senior middle Hailee Thompson sprained an ankle a few points into a March 29 match with Broadalbin-Perth, and the Huskies lost that opening set.
“I was a blender with my thoughts,” Thompson said. “I thought they could do it. I’m also thinking, ‘What if something else happens?'”
Gloversville won that match in four sets as Avery and Salvione both put down 17 kills and 12th-grade setter Aireana Muhlberger collected 39 assists.
“We lost that first set and pulled it together,” Avery said. “We won it for her [Thompson].”
Gloversville kept on winning even without Thompson in the lineup for several more matches, and with a pair of junior varsity players filling in.
“JV players. Different lineups. People playing out of position,” Hicks said. “Whatever we did, they kept the focus. It’s a special group of girls. They were not going to lose.”
“When we saw Hailee go down, it made us step up more,” Salvione said.
Gloversville has lost only three sets in its 14 matches, two of them against Johnstown, its longtime rival.
“We don’t get good moments and we don’t get the stats without each other,” Avery said. “We just work well together on offense and defense.”
Defense is a team strength.
“It all starts with our defense,” said Hicks, who is in his 11th season as Gloversville’s varsity coach. “You’ve got to get the ball to make it work.”
Gloversville has succeeded despite its lack of size. Freshman Zoie Tesi is the tallest of the Huskies at 5-foot-9, Thompson is 5-8 and Muhlberger is 5-7.
“Because we’re shorter we can’t block everything and hit it over people,” Hicks said. “What we have is lots of smarts and the girls are incredibly athletic and versatile.”
Familiarity has been a key, as well. The group that also includes seniors Alana Biasini and Emily Bradt has played a countless number of matches together at both the school and club levels.
“We have a good flow,” Salvione said. “We know how each other plays.”