CLIFTON PARK — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake is a fun volleyball team to watch, and an awfully productive one when all of its parts are working at a high level.
That was the scenario Thursday night when the state's No. 1 Class A girls' volleyball squad broke away from a tie with two brilliant sets, and defeated rival Shenendehowa 3-1 in a Suburban Council match.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world when we're running different plays and it's all working," Burnt Hills junior setter Claire Isaksen said after her team knocked off the Plainsmen for the second year in a row. "When it's all working like that, I get a chill."
Burnt Hills (3-0, 5-1) showed off its defense and its hitting depth at the net in winning the third set 25-14 and the fourth 25-14 after Shenendehowa (3-1, 3-2) took the second 25-23 to pull even.
"I can't say enough about the whole group," said Burnt Hills coach Gary Bynon, who had seven girls combine for 52 kills and six of them join for 43 defensive digs. "I know it's a sports cliche, but every one of them contributed in some way."
"We have a very diverse team," Isaksen said after she collected 39 assists, eight digs and six kills. "A lot of girls can do a lot of different things."
Shenendehowa did things just a bit better in a back-and-forth second set that was tied 12 times.
"They did everything I could ask for," said Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler, whose team came in with a No. 5 state Class AA rank. "That was our set where everything was clicking. Our serve was on, our defense was on and our plays were working. After that, we were lacking defense — and without defense, it's hard to get the offense going."
Burnt Hills was kicking itself a bit after Shenendehowa scored the final two points to take that second set.
"After the second set, we knew we had to be aggressive and play our game," Burnt Hills sophomore outside hitter Carlie Rzeszotarski said. "We weren't playing our game and Coach let us know. In the third set, we listened."
"We knew we could have played better," Isaksen said. "We all knew that. That sparked us."
Junior middle hitter Samantha Versocki played a key role in the third set when she picked up all four of her kills, one coming in a 7-0 run, another in a 4-0 spurt and two more in a 5-0 run that had the Spartans up 18-6.
"She [Versocki] did some great things," Bynon said of one of the holdovers from last year's state semifinalist. "She was a big part of us coming back and reestablishing momentum. In Game 2, we lost a little bit of that momentum."
Rzeszotarski delivered four of her 21 kills in a 13-4 run to start the fourth set, and senior outside hitter/middle blocker Hannah Shell served two aces afterward to go with her eighth kill that clinched the match.
"It's so much fun to be out there when we are connecting as a team," Rzeszotarski said.
Morgan Bohlke had eight kills for Burnt Hills, and Sofia Pawlusik had three of her team's 13 aces and 14 digs.
"We have so much depth," Rzeszotarski said. "That gives us an advantage over other teams."
Rose Talty had 10 kills for nine-time defending Section II Class AA champion Shenendehowa, Abby Case had seven kills, and Colleen Murphy totaled 14 assists.
"For my team, this is the first time seeing competition this high," said Kessler, who graduated seven seniors from her 2018 state semifinal edition. "It's a good learning experience for us."
Burnt Hills, which has won 17 consecutive area championships, raced to an 11-3 lead in the first set, and Isaksen had the kill of the match near the tail end of a 25-17 win when she ran out of bounds toward the bleachers, punched the ball high over her head, and the ball just crept over the net at the opposite side of the court.