RENSSELAER — Under pressure, it was all about trust for the undefeated Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball team.
In a back-and-forth fifth set, senior Bradyn Pomainville recorded the match-clinching kill as the 24-0, top-seeded Plainsmen squeezed past second-seeded Bethlehem (23-2) by a 19-17 margin to win the emotionally charged match 3-2 in the Section II Division I Championship Friday night at Rensselaer High School.
Shenendehowa advances to the NYS Regional Championship Nov. 12 in a site to be determined in Section II.
“It’s amazing,” said Pomainville. Ryan [senior setter Ryan Connors] trusted me after three times not being able to get it done at the net, and I felt really good when that last shot went down. It all turned out well at the end.”
Shenendehowa coach John Coletta admitted he felt the pressure in the championship match, especially going in undefeated.
“We totally expected tonight to be an absolute battle. They have great offensive players and a great defense, as well. I give Bethlehem a lot of credit,” he said. “It could have very easily gone the other way at the end. We went in knowing that it could go either way tonight. We just tried to focus on the simple things. There were some incredible momentum swings. I think the pressure was a factor in that the match could have been a little cleaner. We made some mistakes, especially in our serves, but really, I think there was probably more pressure on me. I tried not to put any pressure on my players.
“We didn’t bring up our record to the boys at all. We wanted them to be loose and have fun, not really having to worry about an undefeated season. We told them it was a great year, but that we hadn’t really done anything yet.”
Junior Bennett Wilson was a force, both at the net, and with his serves, until the latter stages of the match, when his booming serves suddenly became inaccurate.
“I was definitely feeling the pressure,” Wilson said. “I’m so grateful that we were able to come back like that at the end. It wasn’t my best game tonight. We are definitely ready for the regionals.”
Shenendehowa controlled the play in the first game, pulling away for several 8-point leads before winning 25-20. Wilson recorded four kills and a block in that game, while senior Alex Bui added five kills.
Although Wilson continued to excel with three kills, a block and three serving in the second game, Bethlehem rebounded to reverse the score at 25-20, thanks to a strong game at the net from senior Jackson Gray.
Wilson started out strong again in the third game with a couple of kills, and senior Luke Mahoney backed him up with four kills of his own in the Plainsmen’s 25-16 triumph.
But once again, Bethlehem stormed back to regain the momentum in the fourth game, posting a 25-19 triumph.
Wilson, Pomainville and Connors took turns leading the Plainsmen in the deciding fifth game, but Shenendehowa’s service errors began to pile up, while several of their kill attempts sailed wide. One Shenendehowa service mistake and a kill by Jonah Negris gave Bethlehem a 17-16 lead late in the final game, sending the Bethlehem fans into a frenzy.
But Shenendehowa, which lost to Columbia in last year’s championship match, closed with the final three points — a kill by Wilson, a soft touch shot by Connors and a kill by Pomainville.
“Our last official sectional title was in 2019,” said Coletta. “Then COVID came, and although we won the league in 2020, there weren’t any sectionals. This title feels very good, and we all can’t wait for the regionals.”
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake defeated CBA 25-19, 25-12, 25-17 Friday to claim the Section II Division II boys’ volleyball championship matchup. In the championship win, Liam Calhoun had 14 kills, Reid Balderston contributed eight aces, and Anthony Isele and Noah Bocketti each had five kills. The Spartans will next play in the state playoffs on Nov. 12 against an opponent from either Section I or Section III at Bethlehem.