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ESM denied by Whitesboro in volleyball final

Spartans drop four-set title match to reigning Class A champs

East Syracuse-Minoa hitter Rachel Aird (25) goes up for a spike attempt in Saturday night's Section III Class A final against Whitesboro. Aird had 13 kills and seven blocks as the Spartans lost in four sets to the Warriors.

East Syracuse-Minoa hitter Rachel Aird (25) goes up for a spike attempt in Saturday night's Section III Class A final against Whitesboro. Aird had 13 kills and seven blocks as the Spartans lost in four sets to the Warriors. Stephen Bailey

— After the Warriors went ahead 24-14, the Spartans fought off five set points before Olivia Chopskie and Shaina Cushing miscommunicated on a set. Cushing threw her hands up in frustration after watching the ball touch down between the two of them.

Aird connected on a spike to put ESM up 5-3 in the fourth set before Blaszek and Kosuda hit winners to tie it. Back-to-back Blaszak spikes keyed a decisive 8-2 stretch to give Whitesboro a 19-13 lead as the Warriors won the deciding set by its largest margin.

“She kept the team at a mental high,” Entwistle said of Blaszek. “She tries to make sure everyone stays up, stays confident (and) believes in the team.”

ESM found it stressful enough just getting to the sectional final. Up two sets in last Tuesday’s Class A semifinal against no. 4 seed Carthage (also played at Chittenango), the Spartans threw away that edge, but recovered at a well-timed point in the fifth set to prevail.

All went well at the start, as ESM earned a 25-16 victory in the first set and, though it struggled a bit more, also claimed the second set 25-20.

Just one set from the finals, though, the Spartans stumbled and Carthage took full advantage, prevailing 25-18 in the third set and dominating the fourth set, 25-14.

Now it came down to a fifth set, and again Carthage pounced, grabbing a 14-11 lead. But after the teams switched ends, ESM regrouped and played its best volleyball of the entire match, outscoring the Comets 14-4 the rest of the way to win 25-18 and reach the finals.

Aird did a bit of everything, from 24 kills to 10 digs to six aces, adding three blocks, getting her passes from Shaughnessy, who managed 33 assists, five digs, three kills and two aces.

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