Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons took a step forward Wednesday night.
It wasn’t a huge one, but the Lady Knights made the defending Section II Class B volleyball champions sweat a little bit harder than they did before.
“We gave them what we had. We played well. They played better,” Bishop Gibbons coach Bob Verhayden said after a three-set loss to Johnstown. “I told the girls, ‘You gave the state semifinalists a run. You hung with ’em.’ ”
The Lady Knights rallied to make the first set close, and played on even terms for much of the second before the Lady Bills surged for a semifinal win at Ballston Spa High School.
“We weren’t sure how they were, but we heard they were good,” Johnstown all-state hitter Annie Stock said of the Lady Knights. “It turns out they were really good.”
Johnstown had superior size and firepower at the net, though, and a quick, active defense that turned digs into setting passes.
“We had opportunities. We hit and they dug,” said Verhayden, after the 25-19, 25-18, 25-11 setback. “They cover the floor. Balls that would go down to the floor against other opponents don’t with them.”
Bishop Gibbons managed to collect more points than last year when it dropped a semifinal match to Johnstown, 25-16, 25-18, 25-10. The Lady Knights bowed to Ichabod Crane in a 2011 semifinal, 25-13, 25-9, 25-11, and failed to make it that far in the three tournaments before that.
“We were the only Big 10 team to make it this far. Certainly, the stronger team prevailed tonight, but I’m very proud of my girls,” said Verhayden. “We just couldn’t reel them in. Against Albany, we had runs of four and five points. We couldn’t put together long enough runs.”
Bishop Gibbons beat Albany in a playoff for the Big 10 championship Monday, taking the fourth and fifth sets to secure the top spot for what Verhayden said was the first time in program history. Bishop Gibbons swept Schuylerville in the sectional quarterfinals Friday, adding to its resume, which included division championships at the Waterford-Halfmoon and Schalmont tournaments.
“Our senior class took us to where we’ve never been,” said Verhayden, whose Lady Knights, led by 12th-grade co-captains Caroline Bouchard and Emily Brown, finished 12-1 in the Big 10 and 22-3 overall. “It used to take us three years to get that many wins.”
Johnstown was leading Wednesday’s first set, 14-3, after Stock started and finished a 9-0 run with kills. An ace by Sarah Del Vecchio capped a 6-0 counter by the Lady Knights, and later in the set, a kill by Del Vecchio and a net ball had the No. 4 seeds within 21-18.
“They were kind of wide-eyed, and dug a hole,” said Verhayden. “We had that run, and we realized we could play with them.”
Johnstown closed the first set with a 4-1 run that featured clinching kills by Stock and Brianne O’Rourke.
The Lady Bills (No. 1 seed, 20-5) finished strong in the second set, as well, using a 10-4 run that included four kills by Alyssa Nellis and aces by O’Rourke and Kaitlyn Duesler. An ace by Del Vecchio earlier had pulled the Lady Knights within 15-14.
“When it comes down to laying the hammer down, our girls know how to play,” said Johnstown coach Heather McGuire.
A kill by Julie Nichols cut Johnstown’s lead to 7-6 in the third set, and the Lady Bills followed with a 10-1 run that included two kills and a dink by Stock. The junor standout added the last two of her 14 kills and the last of her five aces afterward to help seal the match.
“When the score is close, I tell my teammates it’s zero-zero,” said Stock. “That makes us want it a little more.”
O’Rourke had six kills and six blocks, Nellis topped the Lady Bills with 16 digs and Morgan Catania and Jerica Holland had 17 and 12 assists, respectively. Nichols had five kills for ND-BG, Brown had 13 assists and nine digs and Bouchard had 10 digs and three kills.
Gloversville rallied for a 19-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-17, 25-21 win over Hudson Falls in Wednesday’s second semifinal, and earned a title-match date with Johnstown Saturday at 4 at Stillwater.
Gloversville (No. 3 seed, 17-4) dealt Johnstown its only Foothills Council setback.
“The final will not be easy,” said Stock, who’ll be looking to guide the Lady Bills to a third straight championship. “We want it bad, but they’re going to want it, too.”
Jenna Putnam had 17 assists and 15 points for Gloversville, Katlyn Pierce collected 11 kills and four blocks and Chelsey Biasini had 17 points and four kills.