BURNT HILLS — The only surprise Friday night in the Suburban Council boys’ volleyball championship game between Shenendehowa and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake was that it didn’t go to a fifth-and-final game.
As it turned out, the Plainsmen only needed four sets to earn the Suburban Council title, as Shenendehowa topped Burnt Hills 28-26, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20.
“Against a team like Burnt Hills, it could have gone either way, it could have very easily gone to a game five,” Shenendehowa coach John Coletta said. “A couple little things started to go our way later in the game, in the third and fourth set. We cleaned up a couple parts and kept things simple, and it added up.”
The stage was set as the two teams battled in an extended opening game, 28-26 in the Plainsmen’s favor, that included 17 ties. No team led by more than three points in the set. The Spartans rallied and got past the Plainsmen with a 25-21 second game win before Shenendehowa took the next two sets.
“Our first contact on the ball wasn’t the best [in the second set]; it needed to get a little bit better,” Coletta said. “The next two [sets] after that they did a better job with their passing and we were able to get into our offense.”
The hard-fought opening game gave Burnt Hills hope, leading to the second game success, but not enough to carry it through to the championship.
“We had our opportunities. Unfortunately, a couple missed serves at some critical times hurt us,” Burnt Hills coach Paul Sander said about the opening-game loss. “You [can’t be too] aggressive, [but] with a really good team on the other side you just can’t lay the ball in there, too.
“If you miss it when you’re aggressive, you can’t complain too much. It just seemed to happen at just the wrong time.”
Shenendehowa seniors Will Licata and Tyler Christensen were reunited on the front line during the playoff run and made a difference on each Spartan return attempt.
“Part of our defensive system is using our arms to get up there and block and transition to get into offense,” Coletta said. “They worked well together.”
Christensen recently returned to the lineup after suffering an early season leg injury. He provided 19 kills in the championship final, while Licata adding six more.
The pair’s physical prowess made the difference Friday, as Shenendehowa regrouped after its second-set loss.
“All I was thinking was let’s go, let’s go for the third [set],” Licata said. “These guys are a great team, and we knew coming in that they could battle with us.
“It just comes down to our guys on the sidelines having our backs, and just going out there and going for every single point one at a time, keeping a steady speed and pushing no matter what.”
Third-seeded Burnt Hills upset Bethlehem to make it to Friday’s championship match, and the Spartans finished 12-4 for the season. Top-seeded Shenendehowa’s win improved its record to 13-2.
The Plainsmen’s final win, Licata said, served as a strong reward for the team’s effort and perseverance during a unique “Fall II” season.
“To us it means everything. We weren’t sure that we’d be able to even come out here and compete,” Licata said. “We didn’t take anything for granted — every practice, every drill was amazing. To be able to come out here and win it all in a year like this means the world to all of us.”
Set scores: 28-26, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20. Shenendehowa highlights: Christiansen, 19 kills; Licata, 6 kills; Barrese, 34 assists. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake highlights: Calhoun, 45 assists; Cullen, 20 kills; Kenna, 10 kills.