It did not prove an even trade for the Cazenovia girls volleyball team, who faced little competition in Section III Class C volleyball – only to go up against a dynasty once the state playoffs got underway.
The Lakers only had to win one match – a three-set sweep over Hannibal on Nov. 2 at Jamesville-DeWitt – in order to reach the regional round.
Then, by the sheer luck of the bracket, Cazenovia would draw Section VI champion Eden, winner of four consecutive state championships and 10 overall, the most in New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament history.
They last Wednesday night, at Sweet Home High School in suburban Buffalo, and despite a superb effort from the Lakers and loud cheers from fans that drove more than 150 miles to the match, it still lost in three sets to the Raiders.
Even in what is considered a down year by its high standards, Eden is still difficult for most teams to stop, something Cazenovia quickly discovered.
Only trailing 6-4 in the opening set, the Lakers saw the Raiders rattle off six consecutive points to make it 12-4, and from there it was a futile chase, Cazenovia taking a 25-14 defeat.
But the second set proved much more exciting. The Lakers roared ahead 4-0, and even after Eden tied it, 4-4, the two sides stayed close, through seven ties and various lead changes.
Still clinging to a 13-12 lead at the midway point of the set, Cazenovia saw the Raiders put together an 8-2 run, keyed by Heather Holscher’s three straight kills. Down 20-15, the Lakers pulled back within two, but Eden still prevailed 25-20.
Trying to erase any doubts, the Raiders scored eight straight points in the third set to move ahead for good. Cazenovia closed within 9-8 and 11-9, but another long run from Eden, this one of 6-0 (including three aces from Bree Tutuska), settled matters as the Lakers lost the set 25-14 to end its season. Fittingly, Kailee Ballou served up an ace on match point.
Defensively, the Lakers, who finished its season with a 15-4 record, got superb efforts from Dana Kiselica, who had 17 digs, and Willa Mihayli-Koch, who earned 10 digs.
Madison Gabor added eight digs to go with her four kills as Dominique Lyons managed six assists, three kills and four digs. Molly Carges added two kills and three digs as Amara Kattrein contributed three blocks.