ESM volleyball survives, reaches Class A semis

Five-set battle with New Hartford keeps top seed alive

— Even with a top seed and plenty of rest, the East Syracuse-Minoa girls volleyball team nearly didn’t make it out of its opening match of the Section III Class A winter tournament.

Up against no. 8 seed New Hartford, who swept Camden in the opening round, in Saturday’s Class A quarterfinal, ESM was pushed to the wire, but made two different comebacks and emerged from the Spartan dual with a hard-fought five-set victory.

New Hartford had struck first, winning the opening set 25-21, but it relaxed too much in the second set and ESM roared to an easy 25-15 win.

A tense third set followed, with all sorts of point exchanges, and New Hartford again came out on top, 25-21. One set from the end of its season, ESM pulled together in the fourth set and won its own 25-21 decision.

And that set up a classic fifth set. Every time one side tried to get away, the other caught up, and both found themselves two points from elimination. Then, at 24-24, ESM got the serve back and, on match point, managed to convert.

Through it all, Rachel Aird dominated at the net, putting up 35 kills, an average of seven kills per set, plus four digs and three aces. Amanda Canorro helped out with nine kills, while Kate Mangovski and McKenna Abott each had three kills as Mangovski also recorded five aces.

Samantha Lobello set up those points for Aird as she amassed 50 assists. New Hartford got 19 kills and 14 digs from Mackenzie Holbert, while Brianna Pollard had 23 assists and 15 digs, and Tonilynn Tedesco added 27 digs.

Now ESM would prepare to face another Tri-Valley League opponent, no. 4 seed Whitesboro, in the semifinals Tuesday night at Clinton High School. The winner there moves to Saturday’s final at Chittenango against Oneida or Carthage.

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