(photo courtesy Kevin Johnson)
Through two sets Saturday at Glens Falls’ Cool Insuring Arena, everything for the Cazenovia girls volleyball team was going as planned in pursuit of a first-ever state Class B championship.
The Lakers had won both of the first two sets in the six-set round-robin. If it could claim at least two of the remaining four sets, an opportunity to go to the state final would present itself.
But Cazenovia never got there, thwarted by Section II champion Hudson Falls and Section IV champion Owego in three consecutive sets as those two sides eventually advanced to the championship round.
Having survived a tough Section III tournament and regional wins over Wayne (Section V) and East Aurora (Section VI) on the road, Cazenovia got a full week to train and prepare for its first-ever state final four appearance.
And once things got underway, all went well against Long Island champion John Glenn, with the Lakers rallying from a 22-21 deficit in the opening set and, with great serves from Morgan Hodinger, pulling out the set 25-22.
During the second set against the Knights, a string of strong serves by Lauren Burbidge keyed a runaway to a 22-13 lead, and though four set points were squandered, Cazenovia still prevailed 25-21 to get the sweep.
Hudson Falls was next, and both sets followed a similar pattern. The Lakers took 11-9 leads in each of those sets, only to have the Tigers take charge, first with a 7-1 run that led to a 25-19 decision, and then with an 8-1 push in the second set to claim that by a 25-17 margin.
Given that Owego was 4-0 by this point with sweeps over Hudson Falls and John Glenn, this meant that Cazenovia had to win both sets against the Indians, or lose any chance of reaching the finals.
That first set between Cazenovia and Owego was tight all the way through, tied at 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23 before the Indians reclaimed the serve and, with just one set point, converted it 25-23.
Though the Lakers did win the final set 25-15, its 3-3 record was behind Owego (5-1) and Hudson Falls) (4-2), which meant a third-place finish as Owego would sweep Hudson Falls 27-25, 25-22, 25-19 on Sunday afternoon to win the state title.
Still, it was the most successful season Cazenovia girls volleyball has ever enjoyed, and replicating it in 2018 will prove tough without Hodinger, Burbidge, Delaney Yorks, Ryleigh Tilison and Madison West, all of whom graduate. Lindsey Lawson and Laura Clements lead the returning cast for next fall.