RENSSELAER — Shenendehowa boys' volleyball coach John Coletta pieced together a Section II championship Tuesday night.
"It's been that way for us," Coletta said after his rebuilt Plainsmen forged a four-set win, 25-16, 21-25, 25-20, 25-19, over Bethlehem in the Division 1 final at Rensselaer High School. "Change an ingredient here and there to find what works best."
Colletta found enough productive combinations to extend Shenendehowa's title-winning streak to four years. Shenendehowa took the first set, dropped the second, and then strung two in a row to secure yet another final against Bethlehem.
Shenendehowa's four titles have all come at Bethlehem's expense, while the Eagles had knocked off the Plainsmen for the top spot in each of the four seasons before.
"Coach was trying to keep guys who were hot on the floor," said Shenendehowa senior libero Thomas Miller, the one player who stayed on the court while Colette shuffled his deck. "That's the way it's been all year."
Shenendehowa (19-3) won this title without a returning starter from a year ago. In all, 10 seniors graduates from that 2017 state-runner-up edition.
"Last year we didn't play so much," said Shenendehowa senior outside hitter Doug Ngo-Hatchie, who delivered 15 kills. "Doing this, it was fun and exciting."
Ed Gosch had 14 kills for the Plainsmen, Jehvani Palmer had seven kills and Rohan Gangaraju totaled 47 assists. It was Gangaraju's feed that set up Gosch for the final kill of the match.
"It doesn't matter," Miller said of Shenendehowa's lack of championship-game experience. "Put the work in and put the time in and you can get anything you want out of it."
"This is good," Coletta said. "The boys worked extremely hard for this. They believed in one another."
Shenendehowa closed out the first set with a 10-3 run that included three kills by Ngo-Hatchie and two by Gosch. Bethlehem used a 4-1 spurt to finish off the second set when Jackson Howe slugged down a pair of kills.
"Each time out we took was to say, 'Breathe. Breathe,'" Coletta said. "They won't admit it, but I think they were a little nervous."
Shenendehowa used a 5-1 run in the third set to go up 16-11, and used a 5-2 spurt to complete the set. The fourth set included a 5-0 run as the Plainsmen went up 15-6, and from there they added on. Devin Colon came off the bench and had all three of his kills in that last set, one coming in that 5-0 run before and after blocks by Gosch.
"When I told him [Colon] he wasn't going to start, I also told him, 'You're going to play a big role,'" Coletta said. "He got it done."
A lot of young men did.
"As we were going, we had to find what worked best in each game," Coletta said.
Shenendehowa and Bethlehem had split of pair of Suburban Council matches this season, and the Eagles had beaten the Plainsmen twice at the Section II Mid-Season Tournament, in pool play and again in the title match.
Shenendehowa will meet Friday's Clarkstown South (Section I)-Cicero-North Syracuse (Section III) winner in a regional championship match Saturday at Guilderland High School.
"Last year, it helped playing against those guys," Ngo-Hatchie said of the departed Plainsmen. "That made us better. They were a state final team."