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Burnt Hills volleyball tops Shen, remains unbeaten

Burnt Hills volleyball tops Shen, remains unbeaten

Spartans top Plainsmen in four sets
Burnt Hills volleyball tops Shen, remains unbeaten
Rose Talty of Shenendehowa attemps to block a shot by Morgan Bohlke of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Tuesday.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

BURNT HILLS — The complexion of Tuesday evening's annual clash between Suburban Council girls' volleyball heavyweights Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Shenendehowa changed so fast.

"If you want to be a good volleyball team, you're going to go through ups and downs, and you've got to be able to hang in there," veteran Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon said after his team's four-set win. "Momentum is going to come back to you. What are you going to do with it?"

After dropping the opening set, Burnt Hills took the second and never let that momentum get away, and got the best of Shenendehowa for the first time since 2015.

"After the first set, we came together," Burnt Hills senior libero Grace Isaksen said. "We were all nervous, but it was, 'Hey, we can do this. We have to play how we play and not worry about what's on the other side of the net.'"

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Shenendehowa took the first set 25-16 before Burnt Hills rattled off 25-22, 25-7 and 25-12 wins to remain unbeaten in the league while dealing Shenendehowa its first loss. Shenendehowa beat Burnt Hills last year in four sets and the year before with a sweep that ended the Spartans' league win streak at 390 matches.

"After going through that my sophomore year, this feels so big to me," said Isaksen, who finished with 24 defensive digs. "As bad as that felt, that's how good this feels."

Burnt Hills (8-0, 12-1) not only won the final three sets Tuesday, but never trailed in any of them while adding another significant win in a span of four days. Saturday, the Spartans topped perennial state power John Glenn in the title match at their Cider Challenge Tournament.

"We're a serve-and-pass team," Bynon said. "We're not going to oversize you. We got a little confidence in game two, and the serve-and-pass game was working. We stayed the course and did what we're supposed to do."

Shenendehowa (8-1, 8-2) put together a 6-0 run midway through the first set and a 5-1 spurt to finish it off, but could never string points afterward while Burnt Hills often did.

"We've got to learn how to pick it up from a couple of errors," said Shenendehowa senior middle blocker Olivia DeBortoli, who had eight kills and eight blocks. "We have to think positive thoughts. We've got to tell ourselves we've done it before.

"In the first set, they let errors get to them. After that is was the opposite."

Burnt Hills began the second set with a 6-2 spree, and although Shenendehowa fought back to tie three times, it never could wrestle the lead away from the state's No. 2 Class A squad.

"We started to play a little tentative and hesitant. We started falling apart a little bit," Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler said. "We have to learn to recover a little quicker in these competitive situations."

Shenendehowa lost several key pieces from a team that in 2017 made its first appearance in the state Class AA final. Before that, Shenendehowa had claimed its eighth straight Section II championship as part of its postseason success.

"We know this was a battle for the Suburban Council, but it is not going to define us. We move forward," Kessler said. "It's not about how we started or where we are now, but where we finish."

Fast starts were an important part of Burnt Hills' comeback win. Burnt Hills opened the third set with a 12-1 run, and began the fourth with a 7-0 run.

"They're a great team," Kessler said of BH-BL. "They're a tough serve team, they are relentless on defense and they ran their offense very effectively."

Burnt Hills freshman outside hitter Carlie Rzeszotarski had seven blocks and 14 kills, including hits to finish off the second and fourth sets. Senior outside hitter Lindsey DeBonis had nine kills, two of them from the back row, and sophomore setter Claire Isaksen collected 41 assists and four aces.

"We knew we had to do it together," Grace Isaksen said. "When we were at the middle school for a practice coach Bynon had another coach [Sue Gestwick] sit at the top of the staircase, and one by one he had us try to knock her off. We couldn't do it. Then he sent the whole team up there and we did knock her off. That stuck with us."

Bynon pointed out the play of junior outside hitter Morgan Bohlke, who came off the bench to help spark the comeback.

"I've got to give her a shout out," Bynon said. "She had eight kills, and six of them had to be in the second set. She couldn't be stopped."

Senior outside hitter Maddy Frutchey had nine kills for Shenendehowa, and senior setter Ashley Lavigne had 31 assists.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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