It’s over a month into the season, and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake has yet to add to its vast collection of volleyball championships.
Spartans coach Gary Bynon isn’t all that concerned.
“We’re getting better, and right now, that’s the most important thing. I like the way we’re coming along as a group,” he said after Wednesday’s Suburban Council sweep of Bethlehem. “The more they play, I’m seeing more good things.”
Burnt Hills played some of its best volleyball Saturday at the Baldwinsville Tournament when it rallied for a 21-25, 25-17, 15-11 semifinal win over Penfield before losing to the host Bees in the title match, 25-19, 25-27, 11-15.
“On Saturday, we had our biggest win of the year against Penfield. They beat us pretty good in a scrimmage in August,” Bynon said. “We were down 17-10 in the first set and made a game of it, then we took the next two. We showed we could play, like last year in the state final.”
Bynon was referring to the match last November with Pittsford Sutherland, when his Spartans dropped the first set before taking the next three to earn their second consecutive state Class A championship, and fifth New York title in 11 years.
Burnt Hills lost to Pittsford Sutherland in a rematch when the teams faced off in the Spartans’ Cider Challenge final two Saturdays ago. The Spartans (11-0, 15-3) also lost in the semifinals at their Hal Van Earden Memorial Tournament before that to Our Lady of Mercy.
“If we had won those tournaments, maybe we wouldn’t be quite as motivated,” said Burnt Hills junior Jessica Dillon.
The rebuilt Spartans are certainly driven. They want to win championships, and they’ve striving to improve in all facets so that they can be in a position to do so.
Their resume includes 25 straight league titles and a winning streak in the circuit that was extended to 340 matches Wednesday, as well as 11 consecutive Section II and regional flags.
“Everything has gotten better,” said Dillon, who, along with Kathleen Schurman, Lindsay Bynon and Natalie Schurman, are the only players who logged significant time for last year’s 29-2 team. “We’ve gotten faster. We’re more in shape. Our overall flow of play is better. Still, we have so much further to go. We can go faster. Jump higher. That’s our team goal, to keep getting better.”
Bynon said he’s seen his team handle pressure better as the season has progressed. His Spartans were in a tight spot in the third set Wednesday, trailing, 19-17, before kills by Voorheesville transfer Emma Sprotbery and Dillon kick-started a decisive 6-0 run.
Burnt Hills went on to win that set, wrapping up a 25-8, 25-18, 25-20 triumph.
“It came down to composure,” said Dillon. “We thought if we work together and get the ball back, we can attack and attack.”
Jenna Giacone scored on a dink to pull Bethehem into a 17-17 tie, but the standout 10th-grader injured her ankle on the play. After a delay of several minutes, the Eagles added to their advantage on a kill by Gabby Giacone and a net ball.
“I thought we showed great composure. That’s one of the things we’ve gotten better at,” Bynon said. “A girl gets hurt and we’re down, 19-17. It’s a tough situation for everybody at that point. We have a second offense we run, and we put Ashley [Agan] in and she makes some great serves and great sets and we finish it off.”
Kelly Waters, one of BH-BL’s six sophomores, contributed seven kills from her middle blocker position. She had a kill in the middle of a 6-2 run that helped BH-BL come back from an 11-10 second-set deficit, and another kill late in the set as the Spartans went up, 24-17.
“A lot of younger girls have stepped up and filled roles,” said Dillon.
Burnt Hills graduated seven from last year’s team, including All-America defensive ace Siena Wilder, setting and serving leader Erica Ziskin and its top point producer at the net in Molly McCormack.
“We had Baldwinsville at championship point. We beat a great Penfield team,” said Bynon. “We have kids filling big spots, and they’re coming along. They’re coming together. In situations today, we were better than Saturday.”
“They’re getting better and better and better,” said veteran BH-BL volleyball statistician Bill York. “They haven’t won a tournament yet, but look at the competition. That’s OK.”
Natalie Schurman had 10 kills, 14 digs and all four of her aces in a 6-0 run that gave BH-BL a 17-5 first-set lead. Lindsay Bynon had 12 digs, Kathleen Schurman had eight kills, Sprotbery delivered four kills and six blocks and Dillon finished with 24 assists.