When the Section III Class B girls volleyball championship gets decided Monday night at Cazenovia High School’s Buckley Gym, Westhill is around with a chance to win it. Solvay will not be.
Despite its top seed and remarkable turnaround from last year’s 5-10 campaign, the Bearcats lost a crushing five-set battle to no. 4 seed Phoenix in last Friday night’s Class B semifinal.
Worse yet, Solvay had to watch as its neighbors from Westhill breezed past no. 3 seed and defending champion Skaneateles in three sets to earn the other spot in the finals against the upstart Firebirds.
Not only were the Bearcats 16-1 and playing in its home gym, it was taking on a Phoenix side that required five sets to get out of its opening playoff match against Homer. What’s more, Solvay had beaten the Firebirds in four sets just 11 days earlier, on Oct. 22.
Here, though, the Firebirds kept answering every Solvay charge, winning the first set 25-21 and the second set 25-20, though the Bearcats rebounded both times, claiming the second set 25-17 and rolling to a 25-16 win in the fourth set to pull even again.
And that led to an epochal fifth set. Both sides would get match points and squander them, and it went beyond the wire. Finally, at 27-27, Phoenix won back the serve, and earned the match point it needed to close out a 29-27 classic.
Solvay lost despite Jackie Gardner getting 10 assists, eight aces, 10 digs and three kills, while Jackie Allen had eight kills, 19 digs and four aces and Heather Thompson put together 14 kills.
Lauren Bandera managed 17 assists, six digs and five kills as Brenna Poli and Monica Watkins both managed four kills. Julia Tomoroska had 21 digs and three aces, with Michaela Marotti managing nine digs. Phoenix saw Amber Crews amass 35 assists and 22 digs as Paige Recore earned 17 kills and 15 digs, with Hannah Lees adding 10 kills and 17 digs.