Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball rolls to another state championship

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls' volleyball team celebrates winning the NYSPHSAA Class A title at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls on Sunday, Nov. 21.
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The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls' volleyball team celebrates winning the NYSPHSAA Class A title at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls on Sunday, Nov. 21.

GLENS FALLS — The motivation was already there, then Walter Panas gave the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball team that much more.

After notching the lone win against the Spartans in the pool play round Saturday, the Panthers managed only three leads in the three sets played Sunday as Section II’s preeminent squad rolled to another state Class A championship at Cool Insuring Arena.

“Yesterday, for 10 minutes all weekend, we didn’t play well,” Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon said after guiding his team to the program’s eighth New York title and second in a row. “That left a sour taste.”

The victory was awfully sweet, though, as the Spartans established their front line superiority quickly in what was a 25-8, 25-18, 25-13 triumph.

The victory included 18 kills from tournament most valuable player Carlie Rzeszotarski, 15 more from Callie Chevalier, and six blocks from Peyton Felix.

 “They’re such bright kids,” Bynon said. “I am like a baseball coach moving kids around to give them the best chance for success.”

Burnt Hills’ clinched a spot in the title match by going 4-0 to begin Saturday’s pool play semifinals. The Spartans finished with a 5-1 pool record which included a 28-26 loss to Walter Panas before a closing 25-18 win over the Section I representatives.

“Now, we know what to expect,” Rzeszotarski had said after Saturday’s action. “And it’s also going to fuel us more because we dropped a set and now it’s kind of a revenge game.”

 Those two semifinal sets played a significant role in the way Burnt Hills attacked Sunday.

“We played them yesterday and watched film from those games,” said Rzeszotarski, a Colgate-bound outside hitter. “We had a game plan and executed.”

Part of that plan was DeBonis feeding Rzeszotarski and Chevalier with right-to-left passes, and the 12th-graders pounding the ball to the opposite corner of the court. The play was particularly effective in the first two sets.

“From the film we saw, that was a spot that was open, and we hit them with hard crosses,” DeBonis said.

Burnt Hills mixed in an ample amount of defense at the net, and collected 14 blocks in all.

“Our kids studied and knew where they [Walter Panas] were coming from,” Bynon said. “I’m going to say it again. Defense wins championships.”

Walter Panas could never string together points like the Spartans did, which included an 8-0 run to finish the first set, 7-0 and 5-0 spurts to start and close out the second set, and 7-0 flurries early and late in the third set.

The only leads Water Panas could muster were 1-0 in the first set, and 1-0 and 2-1 in the third.

“After the second set we couldn’t take anything for granted,” Rzeszotarski said after increasing her school career record to 1,728 kills. “We knew they wanted to come back, and we didn’t let them.”

Walter Panas was within 20-18 in the second set after an ace by Alanna Mansell. Burnt Hills tallied the next five points, three of them coming on kills by Chevalier.

Chevalier and DeBonis, a junior setter who had 28 assists, made the all-tournament team.

“It’s amazing,” DeBonis said. “Team effort. I think it represents how much work we put into it.”

 Burnt Hills swept West Irondequoit in three setsto capture the 2019 New York State Public High School Athletic Association flag, and no state competition was held last school year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“We lost [the state tournament] last year and that motivated us,” Rzeszotarski said. “I have so much confidence in this team. I think we could have won three in a row.”

Burnt Hills won Suburban Council division and postseason tournament titles last school year while posting a 20-0 record behind Rzeszotarski, Chevalier and then-senior setter Claire Isaksen.

DeBonis took over the primary assists position this season for Isaksen. Aside from her 28 assists, DeBonis scored on a block and a dink in Sunday’s match-clinching set.

“She is such an unbelievable kid. She’s a worker. A good teammate,” Bynon said of DeBonis, who will inherit a key leadership role next season with the Spartans losing six seniors. “She just keeps getting better. I think with today she passed 1,100 assists and that’s amazing.”

Burnt Hills (29-3) made its record-setting 19th straight state final four appearance over the weekend and its 22nd overall. Aside from its eight championships, the Spartans have placed second six times.

The other state titles came in 2002 (Class B) and 2004, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2015 (Class A).

Burnt Hills won NYSPHSAA championships last weekend in field hockey and boys’ cross country.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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