CLIFTON PARK — There will be no more long trips across the state for the Shenendehowa boys' volleyball team, but there could be one more long day.
That's what the Plainsmen will strive for when they make their third Division 1 state final four appearance in five years Saturday at Albany Capital Center.
They made it through pool play in 2017 and then went five sets before falling to Penfield in the title match. Their state final four stay was shorter back in 2015 when the Plainsmen failed to advance beyond the preliminary round.
"Obviously, the goal is to win the whole thing," Shenendehowa senior Kellan Kennedy said. "We want to play well. We just want to get out there and give it our best and hope to pull it out."
Shenendehowa pulled one out Saturday night, going five sets before finally dispatching Cicero-North Syracuse in a regional championship match at Fayetteville-Manlius High School. The night before that, the Plainsmen were at Suffern High School beating the home team in three sets in the regional semifinals.
"It took us a day to get over the emotion of winning back-to-back [regional matches] and all of the travel," Shenendehowa coach John Coletta said Tuesday as his Plainsmen prepped for Saturday's season-ending matches. "Getting through those two hurdles, we're in a good place mentally now, and we're ready to attack."
Shenendehowa (25-0) will meet McQuaid of Rochester (Section V, 20-0) at 10 a.m. Saturday to begin the two-set pool round. McQuaid and Long Island representative Sachem North (Section XI, 18-0) will play afterward, and Shenendehowa will take on Sachem North after that. The top two teams advance to the 3 p.m. championship match.
Sachem North was the Division 1 runner-up to Fairport last year.
"Every team we play at this point is excellent. It's going to be a battle of who can execute at a high level and maintain that level," Coletta said. "It's going to come down to who is serving a little better. Passing a little better. All of these games will be point for point. One or two things will decide who wins and loses."
Shenendehowa was losing 2-1 Saturday before taking the final two sets.
"They've got guts," Coletta said of his cast that beat Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake to complete a perfect Suburban Council season before topping Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs and Bethlehem to claim the program's fifth consecutive Section II title. "They've shown that many times the way they've come from behind and kept fighting."
They've fought through opponents, as well as sickness and injury this season.
"We've learned how to compete when things haven't been so great," Coletta said.
Shenendehowa (25-0) defeted C-NS 25-19, 13-25, 22-25, 25-22, 16-14, with Kennedy and Jason Aubrey combining on a block to end the marathon. Kennedy, who had seven kills and three blocks that night, collapsed to the court upon the match's conclusion.
"As soon as we won that, there was just so much emotion," Kennedy said. "We worked so hard and had been through so much."
Rohan Gangaraju had 44 assists, Tyler Christensen had 17 kills, Matt Van Dusen had 12 kills, and Joe Meyer and Trevor Connors combined for 33 defensive digs in the match with C-NS.
"Friday night's match ended the same way, with a block," Coletta said. "It was pretty wild."
Shenendehowa defeated Suffern 25-17, 25-21, 25-20 when Christensen totaled 11 kills, Kennedy and Aubrey each had six kills, and Gangaraju collected 28 assists.
"Suffern had the crowd and it was a tough environment," Coletta said. "Then we go to Syracuse and it was even more stressful. More fans and even crazier."
Kennedy said the Plainsmen will have to be focused on the set they are playing and nothing else Saturday as they attempt to get through pool play and earn a chance at a New York title.
"During our summer workouts and during the preseason and all the way to here, Coach has been saying, 'Win the now,'" Kennedy said. "We've got to have that mindset to come out on top."
In the other regional finals, McQuaid defeated Clarence 3-2 and Sachem North defeated Massapequa 3-0.