Clifton Park

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls rally past Shen in volleyball clash of league unbeatens

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls' volleyball team celebrates the match-winning point against Shenendehowa in a battle between two unbeaten Suburban Council teams Monday night at Shen.
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The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls' volleyball team celebrates the match-winning point against Shenendehowa in a battle between two unbeaten Suburban Council teams Monday night at Shen.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake fans stand in unison when their girls’ volleyball team is a point away from wrapping up a set.

They had to wait a bit Monday night before rising up again and again and again.

Charged-up Shenendehowa won the first set and the Spartans regrouped and took the next three in the much-anticipated and final regular season match that pitted unbeaten Suburban Council division champions.

The 3-1 victory gave the Spartans additional postseason momentum after they won their Cider Challenge Tournament title Saturday, which included the 800th win for veteran coach Gary Bynon.

“They played exceptionally well in game one,” Bynon said of the Plainsmen’s 25-22 triumph. “We didn’t pass well and we didn’t serve well. They got us back on our heels, and that doesn’t happen too often.”

Burnt Hills (13-0, 25-3) found its footing and took the next three sets 25-20, 25-15 and 25-19 to extend its league regular season win streak to 57 matches. Burnt Hills had not lost a set against a Section II opponent this season until Monday’s opener that freshman Reagan Ennist closed out with one of her 19 kills.

“We had to get settled in. We hadn’t had a regular season match this big,” Burnt Hills senior outside hitter Carlie Rzeszotarski said. “After the first set it was go time.

“It’s my senior year and the last time playing them,” the Colgate-bound standout added. “I wasn’t going to lose.”

Burnt Hills began to find Rzeszotarski and fellow senior outside Callie Chevalier at the most crItical moments after that first set, and the Spartan bigs delivered. Rzeszotarski collected 34 kills, including four in a key 7-1 run in the second set and her last two in a 3-0 spurt that finished the match.
Chevalier’s 23 kills included three in a 6-2 run to cap the third set, and three in a key 5-0 run midway through the fourth set.

“We got in the huddle and said, ‘We’ve got to play our game and keep pushing,’ ” Chevalier said of her team’s comeback. “It was, ‘Let’s not worry about what’s going on in the stands and on the other side.’ ”

On the Burnt Hills side, the Spartans handled Shenendehowa’s serving better after the first set, which sprung their passing game and led to quality scoring opportunities at the net.

“Definitely our serve receive and passing the ball picked up,” Chevalier said. “That really helped us.”

Shenendehowa (12-1, 15-6) trailed only briefly early in the first set and held the lead the rest of the way after using a 4-0 run to pull away from a 9-9 tie.

“I thought we started strong with our serving but we weren’t so strong after that, and we were late getting to the outside with our blocks,” Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler said. “We made some adjustments and got better.”

It’s not that Shenendehowa played a bad match. Burnt Hills just played a little better as it progressed before a large and loud crowd.

“What an atmosphere,” Bynon said. “This is Class AA against Class A. Big school versus small school. It’s always big when we play. It’s such a great rivalry. I think it’s great for both teams as we move forward.”

Danielle DeBonis had 57 assists for Burnt Hills, and Kiera Hartpence had 26 defensive digs and three aces, her last of those drawing the Spartans within a point of match victory as their group of fans rose to their feet.

“I think we’re on a high right now,” Chevalier said. “Our focus now is the section title so we can go on to the states.”

Burnt Hills is the defending state Class A champion, winning its seventh New York crown in 2019. Section II and state play was not offered in any sport in the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll probably have a long break before our first sectional game,” Rzeszoratski said. “We’ll use that time to keep getting better and keep going at it.”

Burnt Hills is expected to be the No. 1 seed for the Section II Class A tournament, and Shenendehowa is expected to be No. 1 seed for the Section II Class AA tournament.

“My girls play hard. It’s a special team,” Kessler said. “We had some weaknesses exposed and we’ll work on that as we get ready for the sectionals. They have a lot of potential.”

Shenendehowa had won nine straight Section II Class AA titles before losing in the final to Niskayuna in 2019.

“We set our goals in the beginning of the season,’’ Kessler said. “This is our comeback season.”

Grace Almeida had 15 kills and eight blocks for Shenendehowa, Heather Junjulas had 11 kills, Emma Paliwodzinski assisted on 45 points, and Kasia Barletta totaled 25 digs.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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