The Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball team may be back in the final four of the state tournament for the first time since 2015, but semifinal pool play will be a moment the Plainsmen have been preparing for all season long.
“We try to take every game as serious as a state semifinal four run would be,” senior Dylan Urbanski said. “We’re eating healthy, preparing ourselves as athletes, and just taking each step towards being ready for Saturday.”
“There’s always that feeling of having to play the right way to be successful,” head coach John Coletta said.
Shenendehowa will participate in state semifinal Division I pool play this Saturday at Suffolk County Community College, matching up with Eastport South Manor and Penfield.
Burnt Hills is in Division II pool play.
The top two teams from pool play advance to Saturday’s state final match at 3 p.m.
“I don’t think we’re really nervous at all,” Urbanski said. “We’re going in level-headed and just taking it one step at a time.”
The Plainsmen last reached a state semifinal in 2015, where they did not make it out of pool play. Last season, Shenendehowa was knocked out by Cicero-North Syracuse in regional play. The Plainsmen exacted revenge on the team that ended their 2016 campaign last Friday before defeating Clarkstown South Saturday to advance to the final four.
“That was a big hurdle for us as a program,” Coletta said of his team’s victory at regionals.
Earlier this fall, the Plainsmen defeated Penfield in straight sets en route to victory at the Penfield Invitiational. Shenendehowa dominated the tournament, winning 15 straight sets in its five matches. Senior Brendan Spulnick was named MVP of the tournament.
“We’ve confidently put our message out throughout the state by beating teams out in Buffalo and Rochester,” Urbanski said. “I think we always knew we could compete at this level.”
Although their approach won’t change leading up to Saturday’s competition, the Plainsmen know their fellow semifinalists may present their toughest matchups of the year.
“We took some hard top-spin serves from our serving machine and got used to a faster-pace,” Urbanski said of Wednesday’s practice. “Going to states, there’s going to be teams that can really hit the ball hard at us. We’re trying to prepare for that. We’ve just been trying to connect with our hitters and make sure everyone is on the same page.”
For many Plainsmen, Saturday’s matches will be the biggest of their lives, but don’t tell that to them.
“The pressure to win states is there but each game we play it’s all the same to us,” Urbanski said. “We take each game as its own. We don’t really use momentum as an advantage, we just take each game one at a time.”