News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
By Tony Pinciaro
In 2022, PUTNAM VALLEY volleyball accomplished a first by reaching the Section 1 Class B title match. Even though the Tigers lost to perennial sectional champ and eventual state titleist Hen Hud, senior Olivia Dobra and her fellow returnees were looking forward to 2023.
Dobra and the returning nucleus would have to replace six graduates, almost making Putnam Valley a new team. However, the 2023 Tigers’ edition was fueled by one thing – returning to the sectional final, but adding an exclamation point.
Putnam Valley did just this as the fourth-seed defeated third-seeded Blind Brook, 14-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-19, to win the first title in program history.
The Tigers move into the Class B regional semifinal, 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, 11/7. They will play Section 9 champion Red Hook at Wallkill High School. The winner advances to the regional final, noon, Saturday, 11/11, against the Section 4 champion at Chenango Valley High School (Section 4).
“Even though we were losing a big part of our team to graduation, going into the season we didn’t want to make it back to the sectional finals to lose,” said Dobra, a senior and captain. “That pushed us even more and made us more determined.”
Before the team was in place the returning core of Izzy Picard, Abby Haeusgen, Maryava Carducci, Faith Marrero and Dobra welcomed new teammates.
Once this group and the new varsity players meshed, Putnam Valley began its run toward a sectional title. But, not without a little hiccup at midseason with losses to Rye Neck and Dobbs Ferry. This led to a team meeting/bonding night.
“A lot of us are excellent individually, but we felt we weren’t communicating and working as a team in those two losses,” Dobra said. “We did team bonding that weekend with breakfast at a cafe. From that point on, we started picking it up again and pushing ourselves even harder, especially towards the end of the season.”
The Tigers were unbeatable following the two losses and playing their best volleyball going into sectionals.
Putnam Valley had an alarming trend in its first-round (Briarcliff), semifinal (top-seeded Pleasantville) and title matches, losing the first game only to rebound and sweep the next three.
With Putnam Valley at section-point, Dobra could feel the emotion swelling and the happy tears ready to burst. When the section-winning point was scored, Putnam Valley came together as one.
“I was in utter shock, but the excitement I was feeling made me wish everyone could experience it,” Dobra said. “We all ran in and hugged each other. It was an overwhelming and joyous experience.”
For Putnam Valley Coach Nicole (Turner) Scavelli, the title was well-deserved for a team that replaced four starters, but was determined to win.
“Last year, we had a very dominant season but fell short in the finals to eventual state champion Hen Hud,” said Scavelli, a three-year varsity volleyball starter and all-section player for Putnam Valley. “I graduated six players, who were a very strong senior class, so I didn’t know what to expect going into this season as I knew we would be young and fairly less-experienced with only two starters returning to their same positions.
“During preseason, we set the team goal of making it back to the section finals, despite us having to start from scratch (from a team-cohesion point of view). To hit that goal and then win makes all the effort we put in worth it. As a coach, I couldn’t have asked for a harder-working or more determined team than I have this year. They all want it and push themselves each and every day. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Picard had a big day in the finals with 15 kills, five aces and 10 digs and Dobra added nine kills and five blocks. Sophomore Alyssa Gambichler collected 29 assists and 13 digs. Hausegen chipped in with nine kills and nine digs, sophomore Michaela Rajaratnam added five kills and Carducci and Marrero each had eight digs.
Once HORACE GREELEY made it to the Section 1 Class AA Volleyball final, the Quakers left little doubt who was the best team. The Quakers swept Harrison, 25-18, 25-11, 25-22, to win the program’s first sectional title since 1982. The victory comes one year after Lakeland denied the Quakers in the 2022 Class A title match.
Horace Greeley advances to the regional semifinal, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., against the Section 9 champion at Wallkill High School. The victor moves into the regional final, 4 p.m., Saturday, 11/11, against the Section 4 champion at Chenango Valley High School (Section 4).
“Our loss to Lakeland last year was tough, but it gave the team more motivation to return this year even stronger,” junior captain Hope Suh said. “It is an amazing feeling to make school history after all of our hard work this season. Everyone on this team had contributed so much in our efforts to win sectional finals. I’m so excited for our next step in the regional semifinals.”
Whereas last year Horace Greeley Coach Daniela Castro thought her team surprised its opposition, the Quakers established themselves early as a sectional favorite.
“I think it’s awesome that we were able to get back to the sectional finals and win,” Castro said. “Last year, no one believed we would be there and we got there and I think that set the standard for us. This year, we knew what it felt like to get there and we worked hard to get to that moment. We were like, ‘Why couldn’t it be us? We can do this.’ That was a milestone and our team goal and now we have another milestone to look forward to. The team, as a whole, is super resilient and overcame so many challenges this season and I’m really proud of them. They are an amazing group of girls and I am looking forward to continuing our season.”
BYRAM HILLS won its first Section 1 Class A title, sweeping John Jay-Cross River, 25-22, 25-19, 25-20, after the Wolves eliminated perennial powerhouse Hen Hud. Slamming senior Nikolet Vataj (15 kills, six digs and three aces) and her cousin Alana Vataj (eight kills, 10 digs, two blocks and an ace), plus Lucia Delfosse (10 assists, four aces, nine digs) and Claire Mauney (14 assists, six digs) led the vastly improving Bobcats (19-3), who will travel to Wallkill High School, Tuesday, for a regional semifinal, 6:30 p.m., against the Section 9 winner. The winner goes to the regional final, 2 p.m., Saturday, 11/11, against the Section 4 champion at Chenango Valley High School (Section 4).
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