Nov 05, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Whether in winter or in fall, the Westhill girls volleyball program always lingered in the long shadows of more successful neighbors like Marcellus, Solvay and Skaneateles.
But on a joyful Monday night at Cazenovia High School’s Buckley Gym, the Warriors emerged from those shadows for good, beating Phoenix in four sets for its first-ever Section III Class B championship.
For much of the regular season, Westhill had run over its opposition, starting 14-1. But back-to-back losses to Marcellus and Solvay in the last week of the regular season threatened to derail the Warriors.
According to Westhill head coach Carrie Butler, she told her team, after those two losses, to put them aside and focus on the more important sectional tournament. That notion worked, as the Warriors, with the no. 2 seed, swept Jamesville-DeWitt and Skaneateles to reach the championship match.
And waiting for them was Phoenix, the no. 4 seed, who had made a dramatic run to get this far, surviving a five-set quarterfinal with no. 5 seed Homer and then stunning top seed Solvay in another five-setter.
Of course, Westhill didn’t need any reminder of how tough Phoenix could be, having beaten the Firebirds in yet another five-set match back on Sept. 19, so it only figured that the opening set of the sectional final would also prove close.
All through that set, the two sides exchanged point runs, ending up in 10 different ties. Finally, at 22-22, Westhill won back the serve, and earned the final three points to claim a 25-22 victory.
They were tied again, 9-9, in the second set when a close line call appeared to rattle Westhill – and spark Phoenix, who promptly went on a 10-1 run and never got caught, winning the set 25-19 to even the match.
After breaking out to an 8-1 lead in the third set, Westhill watched the Firebirds pulled within one, 11-10, before rattling off five straight points to regain control. It needed that cushion late in the set as Phoenix got within one, 23-22, before the Warriors got the serve back and pulled out another 25-22 decision.
Then the Warriors trailed most of the fourth set before inching into an 18-17 lead. The margin grew to three, 22-19, but Phoenix, making one more push to force another fifth set, tied it 23-23. But kills by Delaney Martin and Lena Guindy closed out the match – and clinched a Westhill championship.
Martin, overall, led her side with 12 kills, adding 12 digs, while Guindy had seven kills and 10 digs. Melissa Newcomb (six kills), Bella Sterly (five kills) and Xiomara Rodriguez (four kills) also contributed at the net as Annaleigh Gedney had 27 assists and 12 digs. Rodriguez managed a team-best 13 digs as Maggie Liberati got eight digs.
On Phoenix’s side, Amber Crews finished with 23 assists and five aces. Up front, Paige Recore managed 11 kills, adding 10 digs, four blocks and three aces, with Delaine May (six kills) and Mackenzie Young (five kills) helping out.
There was little time for the Warriors to celebrate, as on Wednesday night it goes to Sweet Home High School in suburban Buffalo to play Section VI champion Starpoint in the first-ever Class B regional playoff appearance for both schools.
The entire Westhill roster: Xiomara Rodriguez, Jordan Tucker, Maggie Liberati, Lina Guindy, Lydia Gosson, Claire Diefendorf, Annaleigh Gedney, Olivia Sauro, Melissa Newcomb, Delaney Martin, McKenzie Hayes and Bella Sterly.