It’s a new year for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball team … well, sort of.
“We say last year, but last year was really four months ago,” Coach Gary Bynon said during the second day of practice last week in the Spartans’ gymnasium.
During the 2020-21 academic year, “high” risk Fall sports — including volleyball — were not permitted to take place during their regular position in the calendar, moving instead to an abbreviated “Fall II” season held during March and April. This school year, sports are currently moving forward without such restrictions in place at a state- or section-wide level, though individual districts are putting forth their own requirements for COVID-19 testing, masking and vaccination.
“We got a lot out of that spring season, it was great for our kids, and we had great senior leadership,” Bynon said. “It’s great to be back here, back to some traditions and we’re looking forward to it.”
Those traditions include 34 consecutive Suburban Council titles and seven state championships.
Regional and state championships were not held last year, but this is a new year.
“Last year I was devastated that we didn’t get a normal season,” senior and 2020-2021 Gatorade New York Volleyball Player of the Year Carlie Rzeszotarski said. “I’m happy with what we got but being on the team since eighth grade I had three normal seasons, one of whatever last year was, so this year getting that normal back and getting to lead the team for my one last year is going to be great.”
Coming off a 20-game Fall II season four months ago followed by an intense club volleyball season for many players, Bynon said he didn’t see any signs of burnout from his players — he saw them turning it up a notch.
“I can see just in the first two days that there are kids here that really improved in those last two months,” Bynon said. “We thought it was a great two months for our program, our kids on all levels and I can see how much they improved.”
On the court, Rzeszotarski said the underclassmen didn’t miss a step.
“I think the young players are doing a great job of looking up to the older girls and learning from it; they’re all playing really hard,” she said. “They’re fighting for their spots as we’re still in the tryout stage. They’re working really hard against each other, which is really good to see.”
The quick turnaround of seasons continued with the Spartans facing Class D Galway in a scrimmage Monday afternoon followed by a return-to-normal bus trip to Baldwinsville to take part in a round-robin with Victor, Westhill and Marcellus. Burnt Hills opens up its Fall 2021 campaign hosting Troy Wednesday afternoon.
Whether traveling by bus once again or adjusting to riding with parents to and from contests last year due to the coronavirus guidelines, Rzeszotarski said the players took it in stride.
“It was a lot to change, but I think through COVID we’ve really learned to adapt because you don’t know what’s going to happen day to day,” she said. “There were a few small changes, but I think we all did a good job adjusting to it.”
Now its time to get down to business — again.
“If we didn’t get to play last year, this would be a very different atmosphere right now,” Rzeszotarski said. “Especially for my senior year, I think it really means the world to have all of that normalcy back.”