If their encounter in Saturday’s semifinal round at the Civic Center is any indication, today’s state Class A girls’ volleyball championship between Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Pittsford Sutherland should be quite entertaining.
The Spartans, coached by Gary Bynon, will be gunning for their second consecutive state title, and Pittsford Sutherland, the Section V winner, will be looking for its second state championship in the last three years. The two teams square off today at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center.
Burnt Hills came away from Saturday’s pool play with a 5-1 record, while Pittsford Sutherland finished 4-2 to secure the other spot in the finals. Kings Park of Section 11 made a strong bid to reach the championship round, but lost both of its final two games to Burnt Hills, the Spartans making the talented Kingsmen look average with a pair of convincing victories, 25-20 and 25-17.
The real suspense came during the second-round matchup between the Spartans and Pittsford Sutherland. Burnt Hills had won its first two games easily against Section 1 champion Walter Panas, 25-19 and 25-16. But in the next round, they ran into today’s opponent, and Pittsford, behind the play of junior Luisa Schirmer, posted a 25-18 win in game one. In game two, Schirmer, the state tournament MVP as a freshman two years ago when the Knights won the title, sparked her team to a 13-10 lead, forcing Bynon to call a time out.
“I’ll tell you, down 13-10 in that situation, that wasn’t your normal time out,” said Bynon. “We had a discussion. I just had to remind them that we do nothing without each other. There was no strategy. We just had to pull together and play with each other. That was a great team out there, and it’s a great honor our kids came back to beat them.”
The Spartans won the game, 30-28, and held off two game points for the Knights. Sophomore outside hitter Jessica Dillon came up big late in the game, helping Burnt Hills to three straight points after falling behind, 28-27.
The Spartans, who had only lost two games this year — they split with Class B finalist John Glenn in tournament play earlier in the season — got superb performances from just about everybody in the lineup. Junior outside hitter Kathleen Schurman finished with 20 kills on the day, and said her team’s 30-28 win over Pittsford Sutherland was a match she won’t forget anytime soon.
“We haven’t had too many games like that this year,” said Schurman. “They’re such a great team, and there was so much pressure on us. It was good for us, but you can’t let it get to you. It was awesome. This is such a great experience.”
Burnt Hills didn’t have the hardest hitters or highest jumpers among Saturday’s contestants, just a larger number of very good all-around players. A total of 11 girls contributed, with Dillon, senior Lynsea Hensel and freshman Natalie Schurman taking care of things around the net, while senior outside hitter Molly McCormick, the Suburban Council MVP, senior Natalie Moore and Kathleen Schurman also sparked the BH attack. Seniors Siena Wilder and Erica Ziskin directed much of the attack and made some sensational saves in the back row, while senior Sloanie Campbell, senior Mary Lou Patneaude and junior Lindsay Bynon also pitched in when put on the court.
After splitting its two games with Pittsford Sutherland, it was important for Burnt Hills to come out and win both games against Kings Park, which had split its pool games with Pittsford Sutherland.
“I sensed their confidence after they played so well against Pittsford,” Bynon said of Kings Park. “They had confidence, so we had to come out and play really well. We didn’t want to split with them because they would have had an edge in the tiebreaker. If there had been a three-way tie, we would have played the first game, so it was very important to beat them twice.”
But with BH sweeping Kings Park and Pittsford Sutherland taking two games from Walter Panas in the final round, today’s championship was ready to go without a tiebreaker.
“I want my kids to enjoy the moment, but there’s going to be pressure in a game like this,” said Bynon. “You just have to be aggressive and go for it. They are a very skilled team, and it’s going to be a long three-out-of-five series when you play a great team like that with a great player like Luisa.”
“We’re going to have to play great defense, and finish our points when we get the chance,” said Schurman. “They are a great team.”
In Class C pool play, Voorheesville earned a spot in today’s championship match at noon against Eden of Section VI. The Blackbirds went 4-2 in pool play, and Eden was 5-1.
Voorheesville, coached by second-year coach Ashley Swint, defeated Babylon in its first match, 25-13 and 25-18, before splitting two games with Eden, 21-25 and 25-15. They then secured a spot in the finals by splitting two games with Millbrook of Section IX, 23-25 and 25-17.
Libby Bjork had 53 assists and 15 service points for the Blackbirds, who were semifinalists last year and reached the championship two years ago. Tori Hargrave contributed 19 kills and 17 service points, while Voorheesville also got 19 kills and eight digs from Caroline Bablin and 11 kills and 10 digs from Mariel McGinnis.
“It was definitely a team effort today,” said Swint. “We’re going to have to play great defense to win the title. We have to pass well and do everything well. We have to play our game.” Voorheesville takes a 21-0 record into the championship round.
Johnstown got a fine all-around performance from senior Zara Hyde, but failed to win a game in the Class B competition. The Sir Bills lost to powerful John Glenn in the first match, 25-17 and 25-14, dropped a 25-22, 25-19 decision to Skaneateles and was then swept by Pelham, 25-17 and 26-24.
Section II champion Hartford went 1-5 in Class D play.