GLENS FALLS — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake headed into its final pool play match Saturday afternoon with a place in Sunday’s NYSPHSAA Class A girls’ volleyball championship match already secured, but the Spartans’ final two sets gave the team a little something to think about — and maybe a little added motivation.
Having swept both Niagara-Wheatfield and Wantagh to start the day 4-0 at Cool Insuring Arena, Burnt Hills dropped its first set against Section I’s Walter Panas, 28-26, which both served as the Spartans’ lone blemish in a 5-1 day and allowed Panas to advance to the championship match, which will be played Sunday at noon.
Will that result be in the Spartans’ thoughts heading into the final?
Senior star Carlie Rzeszotarski certainly thinks so.
“Now, we know what to expect,” Rzeszotarski said, “and it’s also going to fuel us more because we dropped a set and now it’s kind of a revenge game.”
“When you go from Saturday to Sunday, to the state final, it’s a different atmosphere,” Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon said. “It’s a different type of game.”
Rzeszotarski and fellow senior outside hitter Callie Chevalier were both getting some rest on the bench late in the first set with Walter Panas when the Panthers fended off six consecutive set points to tie things up at 24-24. Bynon put his starters back in, but Panas completed the comeback in the tiebreaker.
However, with the championship matchup set, Bynon again gave his bench an extended run in the day’s final set, which Burnt Hills won 25-18 to finish on a high note.
“That was really important to us,” Bynon said not only of the win, but seeing his usual reserves shine on the state tournament stage.
The Spartans entered the tournament as the defending Class A champion, having won the tournament when it was most recently held in 2019. There were no state championship events held during the 2020-21 school year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
They started on strong form, beating Wantagh 25-8, 25-12 and Niagara-Wheatfield 25-11, 25-8 to stamp their ticket to the final with one match to play.
“We’re technically the defending state champions,” Rzeszotarski said, “but last year we didn’t get the opportunity [to defend the title]. It’s really exciting this year to be back and have that opportunity again.”
GALWAY TO PLAY FOR CLASS D CROWN
In all three of its matches Saturday, Galway found itself playing from behind.
After starting the day with a 25-17, 25-21 loss to Section XI champion Mount Academy, the Golden Eagles lost their first set to Section V champion Pavilion 25-20.
Just three sets into the day, Galway found itself facing elimination.
“We just kept battling and battling back,” Galway coach Mike Glenn said. “The girls never quit. To go 0-3 to start the day and come all the way back to make the championship match is unbelievable. It says a lot about this group that they were able to pull it off.”
The Golden Eagles trailed 19-11 before getting a kill from Grace O’Brien, followed by a six-point service run from Amber Kolpakas to close to within 19-18.
Pavilion answered with three straight points to make it 22-18 before the Golden Eagles rallied once again to tie the match at 23-23 before going on to win the set 26-24.
Heading into its final match, Galway needed a sweep of 2019 state champion Candor to keep its hopes of playing a state title alive.
The first set was a see-saw affair that saw nine lead changes or ties, with Candor rallying from an 18-13 deficit to tie it at 22-22 before Galway closed out a 25-23 win.
Like the first set, the second was decided by another razor-thin margin, as the Golden Eagles earned their first trip to the state championship match with a 26-24 win.
Julia Reedy had 21 digs and 18 kills on the day for Galway, Sadie Underwood posted 10 kills and 10 blocks, and Trishelle Oliver had 12 kills and eight blocks.
Jayden DeVellis registered 41 digs, Amber Kolpakas had eight kills, Kylee Decker had 24 assists, Sophia Fasolino notched 25 assists and Anna Dabrowski added five kills and eight blocks.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” Glenn said. “It was a total team effort today.”
In Sunday’s 2 p.m. state final, Galway will face Mount Academy, which went a perfect 6-0 in pool play.
“Mount Academy has a bunch of good hitters,” Glenn said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
SHENENDEHOWA LEARNS FROM 3RD-PLACE FINISH
Shenendehowa senior Ryan Ennist knew if her team was going to make a run in the Class AA tournament, a lot was going to hinge on its opening set of Saturday’s morning’s session against Massapequa.
When Massapequa pulled out a 25-23 win in a back-and-forth contest, it set the tone for a day that didn’t live up to the Plainsmen’s hopes.
Massapequa added a 25-16 win in the second set for a sweep, then Shenendehowa was beaten 25-13, 25-16 by Victor in its second match of pool play. That dropped the Plainsmen to 0-4 and eliminated them from championship contention.
“We started off the second game [against Massapequa] pretty strong,” Ennist said, “but we got into a serve-receive rut and that set the tone for the rest of the game.”
However, things ended on a high note with a 25-15, 25-16 sweep of Pine Bush to wrap up the day at 2-4 with a third-place finish.
“For us, it was just a matter of finishing strong for the day, finishing third in the state and playing with pride,” Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler said.
Reagan Ennist had 24 kills, Emma Paliwodzinski had 59 assists and Kasia Barletta had 42 digs on the day for Shenendehowa — and all will be back next year.
“Next year,” senior captain Heather Junjulas said, “they’re going to be a forced to be reckoned with.”
FONDA-FULTONVILLE FINISHES THIRD IN CLASS C
In its first-ever trip to the state semifinals, Fonda-Fultonville placed third in Class C.
The Lady Braves opened the day with a 25-12, 25-17 sweep of Section XI champion Mattituck.
“We got off to a great start today,” first-year Fonda-Fultonville coach Miranda Nethaway said. “I think it really helped us settle in and get over the shell shock of playing in this environment.”
In their first set of the day, the Lady Braves rode a seven-point service run from Amber Cole to an 8-0 lead.
In their second match of the day, the Lady Braves lost 25-17, 25-15 to Portville, which clinched a spot in the final with the sweep.
In its final match of the day, Fonda-Fultonville faced Section IX champion Millbrook. Both teams came in 2-2 on the day, and a sweep by either team would put them in the finals.
“We just battled against great competition today,” Nethaway said “Just getting here is great, but to come out of it with a third-place finish and having a shot to reach the finals right up to our last match is great.”
The Blazers punched their ticket to Sunday’s Class C title match with a 25-15, 25-15 win.
The loss ended the best season in school history for Fonda-Fultonville, which made its first trip to the state semifinals.
“It was awesome,” Nethaway said of her first season as coach. “I had no idea what I was coming into. To get this far is great. I couldn’t ask for more in my first season.”
BROADALBIN-PERTH GOES 0-6 IN ‘B’
The day didn’t go the way Broadalbin-Perth coach Kayla Twardzik would’ve hoped, but there were no regrets when looking at the team’s season as a whole.
Broadalbin-Perth had a tough time in Class B pool play, finishing the day with an 0-6 record. The Patriots lost 25-13, 25-13 to John Glenn, 25-16, 25-16 to Marcellus and 25-6, 25-11 to Hendrick Hudson.
“The scores definitely aren’t representative of the level of play,” Twardzik said. “These girls didn’t give up on any point. They gave it their all, all day long.”
Broadalbin-Perth was making its fifth trip to the state final four in the last seven years, but hasn’t advanced to the championship match since 2014.