Despite home opener loss, AHS volleyball team optimistic about season

Wednesday night’s volleyball match between the Amsterdam Lady Rams and the Johnstown Lady Bills was for some a chance to play a new position on the court. For others, it was the first time playing high school volleyball. And for some others, it was a chance to return to the game and show they could still excel at the sport. Although the outcome of the match, a 25-19, 25-19 27-25 win at AHS by the Lady Bills wasn’t the way Amsterdam had hoped to open the season, one thing was certain: volleyball is back and it looks to be another exciting season in the Foothills Council.

“I’m happy,” Amsterdam head coach Christine Sherlock said. “The kids are working hard.”

The Lady Rams will field a varsity team of ten players with seven returning from last years’ team that won only one match in their first season in the Foothills Council in 2014. Nearly all of the players to take the court Wednesday were playing different positions from last season. Among them, Alanna Kaminnski was at setter after playing at outside hitter last season, and Cinderea Chryzynowski who switched from libero to outside hitter.

“We moved Cinderea to hitter and she loved it,” Coach Sherlock said. “Alanna did a fabulous job setting, and she had never set before. From day one she worked at it with no complaints.”

Both Kaminski and Chryzynowski were crucial in keeping Amsterdam in the match and showed how much they had learned in their new places on the court. Chryzynowski contributed ten service points and two kills to the Lady Rams cause, while Kaminski led the team with 14 assists to go along with four service points.

“We all worked together as a team,” Kaminski said. “During practice we were in there learning different roles, but during the game we were better than we were in practice. I’m happy with how we played out there. It felt great.”

The Lady Rams also got another boost of talent when Giulianna Pritchard joined the team during the summer season. Pritchard, a sophomore at AHS is already playing in her fifth high school sport, and had an immediate impact on the game. She lead Amsterdam with 11 service points and three kills in her first game on the AHS volleyball court. Pritchard served up a string of five straight points midway through the first game to pull the Lady Rams within one at 18-17 and forced Johnstown to call a time out.

“Giulianna’s serving was phenomenal,” Coach Sherlock said. “She’s adjusting to the sport. The game moves a lot faster than in practice. For the first time out I thought she did really well. ”

Pritchard was part of the Amsterdam varsity swim team and a starter on the Lady Rams basketball team as an eighth grader. Last year she played basketball in the winter and was on both the junior varsity softball and varsity track and field teams in the spring. In addition to playing volleyball , she is also a majorette with the AHS marching band.

“It’s been a great experience,” Pritchard said. “I’m happy I did it. I love this team and the sport. Even though we didn’t pull it through tonight , we will next time. We definitely have the heart.”

Joining Pritchard on the court is her basketball teammate Maria Lomanto, who will be looking to follow up an outstanding first season on the AHS volleyball squad last year. Lomanto, a junior, had six service points, six kills, five assists and four digs for AHS. Lomanto, Pritchard, Katleland Cooks (4 pts., 1 kill) and Jessica Anderson (5 pts., 1 kill) make up a formidable front line for the Lady Rams. That line will be even stronger when junior Morgan Durinick returns to the lineup. Durinick, who according to Sherlock had an outstanding summer league season, has been out due to illness, but is expected back in less than two weeks. When Durinick does return look for Chryzynowski to return to the libero position, a spot that on Wednesday was filled very capably by rookie Ashlin Glionna. The Lady Rams held their own against a talented Johnstown team and nearly pulled out a win in the third game.

A kill by Pritchard stopped a Johnstown rally and pulled AHS to 22-18. The sophomore then served up a pair of points inching Amsterdam closer at 22-20. Johnstown’s Claire Guzielek tipped the ball over the net to force a side out and give the Lady Bills a chance to serve out the match at 23-20, but a kill by Chryzynowski swung the momentum back Amsterdam’s way, and the junior then followed up with a pair of points off her serve to tie things up at 23-23. Guzielek stopped that rally with a hit of her own before a kill by Lomanto put the Lady Rams a point away from a win. A kill attempt went wide to tie the score again and the Lady Bills didn’t let this one slip away getting kills from Jordan Rose on assists by Guzielek to seal the win. Guzielek led the Lady Bills with nine service points and four kills. It marked the first time the Johnstown junior had been on a volleyball court in three years.

“Claire Guzielek is a gamer,” said Johnstown head coach Heather Maguire. “She hasn’t played volleyball since the eighth grade, but the athleticism is there and she comes ready to play.”

Guzielek did her best to keep the Lady Rams guessing by tipping the ball over the net at key moments in the third game, and over the outstretched arms of Amsterdam blockers. A strategy that helped her team win.

“She has shown the leadership to get the job done,” Coach Maguire said. “This is a hard-working team with good chemistry and this was a good way to come out and put it all together.”

The Lady Rams showed they have what it takes to compete with any team in a very competitive Foothills Council. Coach Sherlock will be getting plenty of support from a very enthusiastic crowd that was present at the first home game, and from an assistant coach, AHS 2004 graduate Allison Miller, who like Sherlock is an AHS volleyball alumni.

“It’s great to have her back at AHS,” said Sherlock of Miller. “She has the experience to really help these kids.”

The result may not have been a win for Amsterdam. But the enthusiasm they showed, especially in game three against Johnstown, and their versatility on the court are something to build on.

“I’m happy with the first time out,” Sherlock said. “The kids are working hard and good things will come.”

Amsterdam will travel to Glens Falls on Friday before returning home to face Schuylerville next Thursday. Both matches have a varsity start time of 6pm.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.