Shenendehowa couldn’t find its offensive groove early in Saturday night’s Section II Class AA volleyball final with Saratoga Springs.
Credit the Blue Streaks’ serving, which included three consecutive aces by Rienne Dugas in a momentum-swinging run.
“We were struggling with serve receive. That’s why we struggled,” said Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler. “We improved tremendously in sets two, three and four, and that allowed us to get into our offense.”
The Lady Plainsmen took each of those sets, 25-22, 25-18 and 25-19, to secure their fourth straight large-school championship at Stillwater High School.
“Saratoga is a very scrappy team. They never stop playing defense,” said middle blocker Gabby Agresta, the lone senior on Shenendehowa’s roster. “We knew we had to go at them quickly. We kept telling ourselves it had to be quick, quick, quick.”
Shenendehowa (No. 1 seed, 18-3) picked up the pace after losing the first set, 25-20, scoring points more efficiently with its dig-set-swing approach.
“I sensed that they weren’t going to have it. This isn’t going to happen,” Kessler said of dropping the first set. “They maintained their focus and played their game.”
Dugas’ three aces came in a 6-0 spurt that helped the Blue Streaks (No. 2 seed, 16-7) build a 23-14 lead in the initial set. After Shenendehowa mounted a comeback, Sophy Levine delivered a closing kill.
“Our serving was horrible at times against Columbia [in a four-set semifinal win],” said Saratoga coach Kate Thompson. “We practiced Friday, and it helped us hang in there.”
The Blue Streaks matched digs and hits in the second and third sets before the Lady Plainsmen put together close-out runs. The Lady Plainsmen gained the upper hand earlier in the fourth set with a 13-3 flurry that helped them open up an 18-8 advantage.
“The first set, we had nerves. We had to shake it off,” said Shenendehowa junior middle Taylor Murphy, who had four kills and a pair of blocks in the 13-3 sequence. “We started to get our passes. Our offense started to click. Everything started working.”
That led to another sectional crown after topping Guilderland the last two years and Bethlehem in 2010. Shenendehowa lost in the final to Bethlehem the year before that.
“We wanted this so badly,” said Murphy. “Our goal coming into this game was to give it our all. We had to do that to get our fourth in a row.”
“I’m the only senior. I’m like the mom, and they’re my babies,” Agresta said as she clutched the championship plaque. “I feel so proud of them.”
Hayley Macken piled up 46 assists for Shenendehowa, with her feed leading to Murphy’s match-finishing kill. Murphy collected 14 kills and 11 blocks in all, Agresta had 15 kills and three blocks in what she said was her best match of the year, and Connie Krause had 10 kills and three blocks to help the Lady Plainsmen advance to Saturday’s regional event at Cicero-North Syracuse.
“They’re a tough team, but I couldn’t be prouder of my kids,” Thompson said after Saratoga’s first title-match appearance since a 2001 Class A victory over Schenectady. “We stuck in there. I would have loved to win, but being the runner-up is not too shabby.”
The second set was tied at 18-18 when Shenendehowa put together a 7-4 push that saw Krause notch two kills and Colleen Connelly put down the clinching kill. The third set was even at 15-15, and in Shenendehowa’s 10-3 run to end it, Agresta had two kills and a block before Kaitlin DeWolf’s finishing ace.
Levine turned in an outstanding game at the net for Saratoga, totaling 15 kills and six blocks, with one of them tying the third set at 15-15. Nina Peppel had eight kills and 16 digs, Dugas had five aces and five kills and Colette Piasecki-Masters had 27 assists and five kills.
Lady Bills repeat
Johnstown took the first two sets, dropped the next two and rallied late in the fifth to beat Gloversville and claim its third straight Section II Class B championship.
“The girls had to contend with the crowd. They had to contend with the Johnstown-Gloversville rivalry,” Lady Bills coach Heather McGuire said after her team’s 25-19, 25-19, 28-30, 13-25, 26-24 victory. “Credit them for having a lot of determination, stick together as a team and playing like champions. They’re tough.”
Johnstown (No. 1, 21-5) scored the final four points to wrap up the marathon match, with two kills by Annie Stock and another by Alyssa Nellis ending it.
“As soon as I saw that final point drop, I was so proud of my team,” said Nellis, who had seven kills, 13 blocks and 15 digs. “We all just had to believe, and we did.”
Stock amassed 24 kills, 17 digs and 13 service points, Jerica Holland led Johnstown with 19 assists to go with 10 kills and Madison Smrtic had 16 digs.
Johnstown held leads of 25-24 and 28-27 in the third set before Gloversville (No. 3, 16-5) answered.
“Gloversville dug deep,” said Nellis. “They played hard.”
Gloversville pulled off a five-set win over Johnstown late in the regular season that denied the Lady Bills a perfect Foothills Council record.
“We used that as motivation,” said Nellis. “We didn’t want it to happen again.”
Jenna Putnam had 41 assists and 12 digs for the Huskies, Katlyn Pierce had 19 kills, six blocks and 21 digs, and Ana Kroup had 17 kills and 12 digs.
Voorheesville (No. 2, 19-0) beat Broadalbin-Perth (No. 1, 14-4) late Friday for its fourth straight Class C title, 25-17, 25-12, 22-25, 25-21. Caroline Bablin had 25 kills, and Libby Bjork had 45 assists for the Blackbirds. Zoe Simonson and Megan Ryder had seven kills each for the Patriots.