Power trumped speed in the finals of the Section II Class B girls’ volleyball championship.
Sophomores Annie Stock and Hannah Breda dominated the net, and senior setter Zara Hyde was extremely sharp with her serves to help Johnstown secure its second straight title Friday night at Stillwater High School.
Stock put down 20 kills to go along with 18 digs, Breda contributed 10 kills and four blocks, and Hyde contributed seven aces, five kills and 26 assists to lift the Lady Bills over the Lady Sabres in straight sets by identical scores, 25-22, 25-22 and 25-22.
Johnstown (17-3) travels to play the Section VII representative at Ausable Tuesday night at 5:30.
Schalmont, which appeared a little out of steam after storming back to beat Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk in five sets during the semifinals, finished at 19-6.
“Our offense was strong, but I think our defense was also very sharp tonight,” said Stock, whose own personal statistics confirmed that statement. “We had a lot of digs tonight. They [the Sabres] didn’t really surprise us. We knew what they were going to try to do to us. But this feels great. It feels just as good as it did for us last year, and we’re ready to play well in the regionals.”
“This means a lot to me,” said Hyde. “There are quite a few of us who have played together for a couple of years now, not just on the varsity, but also on the club level.”
Johnstown showed its experience by closing out each game with solid play both up front and on the back line. In the pivotal second game, Stock put down three kills, and Hyde registered a pair of aces for the final five points.
“They were definitely momentum-changers for us,” said Johnstown head coach Heather McGuire. “Zara’s aces came at a crucial time.”
McGuire said she wasn’t surprised that Schalmont remained competitive right through to the end of each game.
“I told the girls in the third set that Schalmont had rallied back from a deficit to beat Ravena and that they couldn’t let up against them,” McGuire said. “There wasn’t going to be any gimmes out there. We definitely had to adjust to what they were doing to us. We’re used to playing against teams from the Foothills Council, like Queensbury, that also use a lot power, but Schalmont tried to keep the ball away from us at the net by tipping the ball away top open spaces.”
Schalmont coach Kevin Meacham said his Lady Sabres had no illusions that they could match the Lady Bills in the power department.
“Johnstown is definitely very tall, but we know who we are,” he said. “We knew what kind of team we would be from Day 1. We are a small team, but we’ve had a lot of success by keeping our sets low. We’ve tried to use our speed and our defense to win, and we’ve been able to do that all year long.
“Actually, Johnstown was better, defensively, tonight than when I saw them against Bishop Gibbons the other night. You’ve got to give them credit for being a very good team. But we have embraced what kind of team we are right from the beginning. We played well, but they just played better than we did tonight. I’m still very proud of this team. Every time I called a timeout to make an adjustment, they did exactly what I told them to do, and we were able to make a run. Maybe if we hadn’t had to go five games against Ravena we would have had a little more energy left at the end.”
Johnstown jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set until Schalmont regrouped behind a pair of kills from Rachel Pineda to eventually pull out to a 12-8 lead.
Schalmont still held a 17-16 advantage before the Lady Bills exerted themselves at the net with Stock and Breda combining for four kills during a 9-5 run to close out the game.
Schalmont started strong once again in the second set behind a pair of aces from Emily Hilton, but a stuff block by Alyssa Nellis and several kills by Breda kept the Lady Bills close until Stock once again took over again at the end of the game.
Johnstown led by as much as 16-12 in the final set, but Schalmont knotted the score at 17-17. Jerica Holland’s pair of aces got Johnstown going in the right direction, and Stock put the finishing touches on the win with a powerful kill to clinch the match.
In Class C, two-time defending champion and top-seeded Voorheesville (19-0) beat Greenville, 25-17, 25-9, 25-13. The Blackbirds were also runners-up in both 2008 and 2009.
Caroline Bablin (12 kills, nine digs), Mariel McGinnis (11 kills), Nicole Brower (14 digs) and Libby Bjork (32 assists, eight digs, 15 service points) led Voorheesville.
In Class D, defending champion Hartford defeated top-seeded Argyle in a rematch of last year’s finals, 8-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-15.