With a splendid stretch of volleyball, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake sent a message, and then delivered a knockout blow.
The Spartans put a dent into a big Pittsford Sutherland lead to gather momentum before soaring past Kings Park Saturday in a pool victory that clinched their fourth consecutive state Class A championship berth.
“It was huge. It showed them we were here and we can do this,” Burnt Hills senior Kathleen Schurman said of the comeback against nationally ranked Pittsford Sutherland. “We showed them what we can do.”
The Spartans will get a chance to do it again when they take on the Knights in a return meeting this morning at 10 at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The five-time New York champions got there by pulling away for a 25-19 win over King Park in the first set of their final pool match.
“That was the best set we played all day,” said Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon. “I think it was a little bit of the Pittsford Sutherland ending and Cornwall winning. We were on a little bit of an up.”
Cornwall upset Kings Park for its only pool win, 25-22, to split that match just before Burnt Hills met the Kingsmen. That result left Kings Park 1-3 and Burnt Hills 2-2, and in a less precarious situation.
“So many things can happen,” said Bynon. “We go from needing to win two to get in [to the final] to needing one to get in.”
Burnt Hills trailed, 5-2, but surged with a 15-6 spurt to take control against a Kings Park team it had lost to last month in the John Glenn Tournament final.
“It’s hard to keep all of the scenarios out of your head, but you’ve got to do it,” said BH-BL senior Lindsay Bynon. “You’ve got to stay in the moment and play your hardest.”
Natalie Schurman served consecutive aces in the 15-6 run, and Kathleen Schurman collected three kills and another later on that made it 24-19. When Joelle Borkowski banged the ball long on a kill attempt, Burnt Hills (25-4) was headed to its eighth title match in 12 years and ninth in program history.
“That’s what you want from a senior,” coach Bynon said of Kathleen Schurman, who finished the day with 19 kills. “In our high-tempo offense, she got her hands on the ball and made great plays.”
With reserves on the floor most of the way, a 25-14 loss ended Burnt Hills’ day. It started with a 25-18, 25-20 sweep of Cornwall, and Pittsford Sutherland beat the Spartans, 25-18, 25-22, as part of their 6-0 showing.
“We continue to play well against Pittsford Suthlerland,” said coach Bynon. “We just haven’t gotten over the hump.”
The Spartans gave it a good go, though, putting together 7-0 and 5-0 runs after falling behind in the second set with the Knights, 21-10. Kathleen Schurman had three kills in the 5-0 flurry that made it 24-22.
“To be able to come back gives us a positive for [today’s match],” said coach Bynon. “We needed that positive.”
“We wanted to show them what we were made of,” said BH-BL junior Jessica Dillon, who totaled 36 assists and nine kills. “If you put us down, we’re going to come back.”
Pittsford Sutherland star Luisa Schirmer had 15 kills in the two sets againt BH-BL. Sarah Blowers served two aces, and Schirmer had the closing kill in a 6-1 run to finish the first set.
“We have to be able to run some sort of offense off their serve. We can’t let them go on three-, four-, five-point service runs,” said coach Bynon. “Serve receive is going to be huge.”
Pittsford Sutherland is undefeated against New York teams this season, including a two-set win over the Spartans at their Cider Challenge Tournament in September.
Burnt Hills beat Pittsford Suthlerland for the 2012 state title, and topped Our Lady of Mercy for the 2011 crown. The Knights defeated the Spartans for the 2010 championship.
Natalie Schurman had 10 kills and 15 digs, Bynon had 21 digs, and Jaleah Owens had six blocks.
lady bills advance
After going 0-12 in pool play the last two years, Johnstown won four times and advanced to today’s Class B championship match at noon against Owego.
Owego beat Johnstown to begin the session, 25-19, 25-23, and the Lady Bills bounced back with victories over Honeoye Falls-Lima, 25-9, 25-15, and John Glenn, 25-22, 25-17.
“We weren’t playing our game this morning,” said Johnstown coach Heather McGuire. “All I ever asked my girls was to play their game. They knew what they had to do and rallied. All the credit to them.”
John Glenn had won the last two state titles, and five going back to 2004.
“That was surreal,” said McGuire. “John Glenn has always been a juggernaut. Two years ago, no one could touch them. Last year, they were awesome. The important thing was we couldn’t be afraid.”
Annie Stock had 24 kills and 25 digs for Johnstown, Brianne O’Rourke had 13 kills and 10 blocks and Jerica Holland had 32 assists.
Johnstown (4-2) gained its spot in the final based on point differential after tying with Owego and John Glenn. Owego prevailed in a one-set tie-breaker.