I arrived early on the first day of competition at the NY State Volleyball Championships in Glens Falls on Saturday November 15, 2014. It was at least three hours before the Broadalbin-Perth Lady Patriots would take the floor. As the morning session concluded only Burnt Hills remained of the three Section 2 teams that played early. The Lady Patriots start time was delayed further as one group needed a tie breaker to decide who would advance to the finals in Class B.
As I watched the team warm up, I noticed an expression I was familiar with from my previous coaching experience: a look of determination that I knew meant that these young athletes were about to do something amazing. I saw that look of determination persist throughout the two days of intense competition between the best high school volleyball teams in the state.
Broadalbin-Perth vs. Mattituck
The Lady Patriots first opponent was the Lady Tuckers of Mattituck High School. The winners of the Long Island region were making their third trip to the final four in the last four years. The Lady Patriots wasted no time taking charge in the first set with Chelsea LeBlanc recording the first of her 10 kills in the match. Jordan Marshall stepped to the service line and rattled off 12 straight points getting kills from LeBlanc, Zoe Simonson, and Megan Ryder. Broadalbin-Perth led 13-0 before Mattituck scored their first point on a side out. A block by LeBlanc sent Ryder to the line where the junior hitter pushed the lead to 20-1 once again getting kills from LeBlanc and Simonson, whose third kill of the game sent Smith to the line for the final points. Jordan Marshall’s hit capped off a 25-3 first game win.
The second game was another dominant team effort from the Lady Patriots. Keyana Fariello started it with a pair of service points giving BPHS a 2-0 lead. LeBlanc and Ryder each converted hits boosting the lead to 4-1 before Mattituck’s Emilie Reimer came up with a block and a kill for the Lady Tuckers.
After a missed serve by Mattituck, Ryder accurately served up four points with a little help from LeBlanc and Simonson. BPHS led 9-4 and then later 15-5 after four points from Smith. At 15-6, Simonson stepped to the line and served out the match with nine straight points. Marshall, Ryder and Lauren Adamchick all contributed kills in the 25-6 win. BPHS was 2-0 in pool play with four games left. Marshall’s 14 service points were tops for the Lady Patriots who had 22 kills. Each one of those points was assisted by Smith who said her ability to set the ball has become more of a natural instinct.
“My hands have a mind of their own,” said Smith. “They go wherever they want to.” Smith, a junior is a key in Broadalbin-Perth’s offense comparable to the quarterback of a football team. Her passing sets up the hitters. Her ability to read the defense converts the hits into points.
“I look at the other teams blockers and realize where they are,” said Smith. “I look at where our blockers are and where our hitters are.”
The Lady Patriots would need all of their skills as the competition increased with the Lady Spartans of Spackenkill and the five time defending champion Lady Raiders of Eden High School.
Broadalbin-Perth vs. Eden
The five time defending champion Lady Raiders of Eden provided a much tougher task for the Lady Patriots. Eden’s Sam Burgio set the tone quickly in game one with a kill for the first point. Behind the serve of senior Kailey Ballou, Eden pushed the lead to 6-0 before a kill by LeBlanc ended the run.
BPHS scored a pair of points off Marshall’s serve cutting the lead in half, but Burgio struck again giving the ball back to Eden. Molly Breier served up the next four points for Eden extending the lead to 11-3. An ace by Alyssa Durski and a kill by Burgio made it 14-4 before BPHS got the ball again. At 15-6, Burgio served up a string of 10 points to close the first set 25-3.
“We can’t let number seven (Burgio) serve up so many points in a row,” said Broadalbin-Perth Coach Mike Calvello after pool play concluded. “We need to play better on defense. We need to pass better.”
The Lady Patriots had more success in game two and took the lead at 4-2 after a pair of aces by Ryder. Burgio responded with a pair of kills on Durski’s serve and Eden inched ahead 6- 4. Burgio and Meghan Ballou later added kills increasing the lead to 10-6 before Simonson ended the rally with a kill. The Lady Patriots fought point for point and got as close as 13-10 after a kill by LeBlanc. Burgio and Breier helped Eden take it to 16-10, but the Lady Patriots dug in again and following kills by Simonson and Ryder trailed only 16-13. A spectacular dig by Marshall saved one point and brought the crowd to it’s feet. A block, then a kill by LeBlanc gave the ball back to BPHS at 17-14. However, Burgio and her teammates recorded eight of the last ten points of the set for the victory.
“That second game I thought we zeroed in and stayed with them,” said Coach Calvello.
The Lady Patriots found themselves tied for second place in the group at 2-2 with their next opponent Spackenkill. At stake was a spot in the title match with Eden.
Broadalbin-Perth vs. Spackenkill
Trailiing 24-23 in the first set, LeBlanc’s hit landed at the center of Spackenkill’s defense tying the score. With Ryder serving, LeBlanc did it again giving her team the lead. Spackenkill’s Taylor Mohan tied it up at 25-25, and after a serve by Courtney Noll was not returned the Lady Spartans had BPHS with their backs to the wall again. This time Zoe Simonson saved the season, and after Spackenkill hit the ball in the net off LeBlanc’s next serve, Simonson ended the drama of game one 28-26. The Lady Patriots had been up by as much as five points at 14-9 with Marshall serving, but behind Mohan and Anilee Sher the Lady Spartans got back in the set. Sher’s serving and Mohan’s hitting put the score at 24-22 before a block by LeBlanc set up the late game heroics.
“She had a fire in her,” said Coach Calvello on the play of senior co-captain LeBlanc. “A switch came on and she played unbelievable.”
LeBlanc picked up where she left off in the second set scoring the first point on a kill. A pair of points from Marshall and another kill by LeBlanc pushed the lead to 4-0.Mohan got Spackenkilll on the board with kill at 4-1 the cut it to 4-2 on her serve, but a hit down the line from outside hitter Simonson gave the possession back to BPHS. Smith sent the Lady Patriots on a run from her serve making it 9-4.
A kill by Marshall matched one by Mohan putting the ball in senior co-captain Keyana Fariello’s hands. The Lady Patriots offense then worked to perfection with Fariello serving, Smith setting and LeBlanc, Simonson, Marshall, Ryder and Adamchick all coming through with kills. The Lady Patriots defense kept Spackenkll from stringing together points throughout the game with Fariello coming up with 14 digs, and Marshall adding eight. LeBlanc called for the ball at 23-13 and all but ended Spackenkill’s chances with the last of her seven kills in the match.
“That second game she was unreal,” said Calvello of LeBlanc. “She was calling for the ball.”
Moments later the Lady Patriots celebrated a win in the second set 25-14, and a chance to play in the championship game in their first ever trip to the state finals.
A well-balanced team
“Oh my gosh!” said an emotional coach Calvello. “This just speaks volumes for them as a team. For them to come back and pull that first game out is a testament to them.”
“When we realized this could be our last game, that’s when we went out and fought our hardest,” said LeBlanc who added three blocks and four service points in the win over Spackenkill. “Most of us play club ball so we’re used to it. We just push each other and really focus, play our best, and work our hardest.”
“Mr. C is my motivation,” added LeBlanc.
The victory was yet another well-balanced effort from the Lady Patriots. Simonson had four digs and three kills, Ryder had six digs and seven points off serve, Marshall had six points and two kills, and Fariello topped the list with 14 digs and seven service points.
“It’s beyond amazing to be in the top two in the state,” said Fariello. “Advancing is more than a dream for us. They (Spackenkill) had serves we go for. Top spin serves. They definitely served the way we liked.”
Fariello’s defense often started the Lady Patriots offense. The next person to touch the ball is likely to be Smith, who had 13 assists.
“We just focused more,” said Smith. “On us as individuals, and the ball, and the team.”
Using the basic fundamentals of the game over years of hard work has carried the Lady Patriots to the final match of the season. They also understand that at this level the mental part of the game comes into play.
“It’s mostly mental,” said Fariello on facing Eden a second time. “We have to try and stay with them better than the first time.”
And while the Lady Patriots remain focused on their goal. That determination certainly has impressed their coach.
“I don’t think they get rattled,” said Coach Calvelo. “Nothing seems to bother them. I can’t say enough about them. I’m so proud of them. They proved it to me all season and it’s a credit to them and each other.”
In regards to the Spackenkill match, Calvello said, “I told them before the match that this one’s going to decide it. They really played well. At this point who would have thought we would get here. I’m so proud of them.”
Day Two: Broadalbin-Perth vs. Eden
By two o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, Novebmer 16, 2014, The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Lady Spartans had fallen in a heart breaking fifth game 28-26 to Pittsford-Sutherland in the Class A final. Broadalbin-Perth was the last Section 2 team remaining in the championships.
“I talked with them before the match and told them, ‘It’s a new day. Just move forward!’” said Calvello.
The match began with Broadalbin-Perth taking a 2-0 lead with Jordan Marshall’s serve. Eden’s Sam Burgio drilled the first of her 22 kills for the Lady Raider’s first point, but Eden’s service game stalled with a ball in the net. The Lady Patriots don’t take advantage and Alyssa Durski’s serve helps Eden take a 5-3 lead. The next serve lands out-of-bounds giving BPHS’ Chelsea LeBlanc the chance to give the Lady Patriots the lead off her serve 6-5. Burgio swung the momentum back to Eden with a kill, but Marshall responded for BPHS putting her team ahead 8-7. A kill by Kailey Ballou later gave Eden a 10-8 lead as the teams continued to trade points looking for an edge. Lauren Adamchick’s kill and a block from LeBlanc tied the score at 10-10. Burgio and LeBlanc traded kills keeping the two teams separated by only one point. Burgio, however would get the edge as her teammates set her up on the outside and she hit across the court for a trio of kills putting Eden in front 20-13. LeBlanc ended the rally and Simonson inched BPHS closer at 20-15, but Burgio stepped to the line and Eden took the first game 25-16.
“I don’t think nerves played a part of it,” said Callvello. “I was more nervous than they were.”
Broadalbin-Perth started the second set the same as the first with the service of Fariello and hitting of LeBlanc creating a 3-0 lead. Burgio and Kailey Ballou knotted the score at 3-3 but, Eden couldn’t hold its serve and the Lady Patriots went on a run behind the serve of Jordan Marshall and a couple of tremendous kills by LeBlanc to the center of Eden’s defense. The Lady Patriots led 7-3 before Burgio ended the rally. But another serve out-of-bounds gave BPHS the ball back. The left handed serve of Megan Ryder was effective and after a tip over the net by LeBlanc made it 10-4, Broadalbin-Perth did something teams rarely achieve against Eden, they forced them to take a time out.
“We did a better job on defense,” said Calvello. “And we did a much better job on serve receive. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played.”
Burgio calmed things down for Eden and inched her team closer at 11-8, but another serve in the net gave BPHS a chance to extend the lead. Smith pushed it to 13-8, and then the Lady Pattriots were at 14-9 before Eden charged back. A kill by Kailey Ballou put the ball in the hands of Claire Cjzaka who served up five points putting Eden back in front. On Eden’s next possession, Kailey Ballou and Burgio hit outside increasing Eden’s advantage to 19-15. Burgio hit one off a block by LeBlanc who moments later picked up another kill to stop Eden’s rally. LeBlanc then blocked Eden’s advance at 22-17.
“I think she proved why she’s the best hitter in the Foothills Council,” said Coach Calvello on LeBlanc’s effort.
After a point from Ryder’s serve cut it to 22-18, Eden got the ball back and Durski served out the second game with an ace for 25-18. The Lady Patriots were down but still had plenty of volleyball left in them.
The Lady Patriots trailed early in the third set. At 4-0, a kill by Marshall and then three service points by the sophomore and a kill by Ryder tied the score. The two teams exchanged points with a point off Smith’s serve tying it again at 8-8. Broadalbin-Perth continued to stay with Eden, and a kill by Marshall cut an Eden lead to 13-11. Moments later Burgio delivered a kill that sent Meghan Ballou to the line for a run and an 18-11 lead. The Lady Raiders finished the set winning 25-14 and claimed their sixth straight title.
“Hopefully this is a new standard for BP volleyball,” said Coach Calvello. “This is a credit to the girls and how they worked hard all season.”
It was the last game for the Lady Patriots four seniors: Chelsea LeBlanc, Keyana Fariello, Lauren Adamchick, and Nicole Traver who reached a level no BPHS team ever had before them.
“I’ll take number two in the state against six-time defending state champion any time,” said Coach Calvello. “It’s been a great run. I lose four senior and they won’t be replaced.”
LeBlanc, who earned the sportsmanship award for Broadalbin-Perth at the start of the games, joined Gabby Smith on the All Tournament team. Eden’s Sam Burgio was named MVP.
“I think Chelsea really stepped up this tournament,” said Coach Calvello. “Gabby did a great job of setting, and both were named to the all tournament team.”
Prior to their match with Eden, the Lady Patriots had won 22 straight sets and swept all their opponents in sectionals and regionals 3-0. Their only losses at states were to Eden. The experience is one they will likely never forget.
“This will be something they remember all their lives,” said Coach Calvello. “Memories that will last a lifetime.”
The season comes to a close for the 2014 Broadalbin Perth Lady Patriots volleyball team. Throughout their run from sectionals to Sunday’s final, what stood out to me most was how many times Coach Calvello said he was proud of the team, and that every player I spoke to said they wanted to win this for their coach. To me that shows the level of mutual respect and speaks volumes for the program. When the 2015 season starts they will still be the number two team in the state and will be determined to take it one step further. No one should be surprised if they return to states next year.
(Photos by Scott Mulford)