The Guilderland girls’ volleyball team had been looking forward to Thursday’s match against Suburban Council rival Shenendehowa for some 10 months.
Coming up with what senior Quincy Kinzel called “one of the best games we’ve ever played,” the Lady Dutch removed some of the hurt from last year’s Class AA championship game, avenging that loss with a three-set sweep of the Lady Plainsmen.
“It’s huge. Shen is one of our biggest rivals,” Kinzel said. “Last year, we were devastated when we lost in the finals, because we played so hard. This was such a big win for us.
“We were so excited. We dressed up for school. This is Shen. We need to get ourselves prepared. And we did.”
After coming from behind to win the first two sets by identical 25-23 scores, the Lady Dutch grabbed a 19-9 lead in the third set and closed things out with a 25-16 win in a matchup of unbeatens.
“Shen has always been our biggest rival. It felt so good to win, especially in three games,” said Kayla Myers, one of seven seniors on the roster of 5-0 Guilderland.
Shenendehowa, with seven sophomores and only two seniors on the roster, led by five points three times during the first set. With her team trailing, 18-13, freshman Rebecca Straubel got the Lady Dutch a point off a Shenendehowa serve to start a comeback.
With Jessica Van Doren serving, the Lady Dutch took a 19-18 lead, but Shenendehowa rallied for a 23-23 tie. Straubel put away the last point of the set.
The middle set saw more back-and-forth action. Shenendehowa led by four points on two occasions and was up, 19-14, the biggest separation in the set.
Guilderland played itself into three ties before Myers won the last two points.
“We play better when we’re ahead and can get some confidence,” said Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler, whose team fell to 3-1. “Part of that is that we’re so young.
“They’re getting used to the varsity level, and it takes a little time. When you’re playing an experienced team like Guilderland, it makes it a little tougher.”
“Going up two games was huge, but we knew we didn’t have the third game in the bag. That made us push even harder,” said Kinzel.
“But we did feel more comfortable. If we make mistakes, we want be aggressive. We don’t want to be passive. When we get to that point [up, 19-9] in the third game, we want to make sure we’re swinging through the ball and making smart shots.”
“If we swing as hard as we can into a block, that’s better than letting the ball just drop to the floor.”
Led by Myers — who finished the match with four kills and six blocks and Allison Van Doren (nine kills, 14 service points and 10 digs), Guilderland held Shenendehowa to one serve twice in running out to its big lead in the third set.
“We know we don’t have it in the bag, but we know we’re playing well,” said Myers of her team’s 2-0 start.
“After last year’s final, we have a lot of returning players who wanted to win this match,” said Guilderland coach Jessica Allen. “They had a lot of confidence going into today.
“But you never know. There’s no set time limit. And it’s a game of momentum, and that momentum can switch quickly. Having the lead helps their confidence, but the challenge is to keep them focused on the third set.”
Kinzel hopes the momentum can stay with the Lady Dutch long enough for them to extend their season past the Section II final.
“The last couple of years, we’ve gotten progressively better,” she said. “So, we’re hoping this year, we can do even better in our senior year.”
Kessler feels her team will be a factor when the postseason comes.
“There’s so many differences at this level,” she said. “One of the big things they’re still learning is how to read the play. That comes with time, and I’m sure they’ll get it.”
Junior Gabby Falco (seven kills, two blocks) and sophomore middle blocker Michelle Paulsen (six kills, 10 blocks) led the Lady Plainsmen.