Ossining, Hen Hud, Haldane to Challenge for State Titles
By Tony Pinciaro
The local volleyball circuit has witnessed a banner campaign, with three local teams – Class AA Ossining, Class A Hen Hud and Class D Haldane – each venturing north this week to Glens Falls, home of the state championships.
HALDANE faced a difficult task against Section 9’s Mount Academy in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D Volleyball Regional final.
The Blue Devils lost the first two games and were in danger of a quick exit. However, the two-game deficit did not make Haldane panic. Instead, an uplifting discussion with Coach Kelsey Flaherty between games two and three brought Haldane back.
The Blue Devils won three straight to take the match and earn a berth in the state final four, Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 23-24, at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Haldane will be joined in Glens Falls by Hen Hud (Class A) and Ossining (Class AA). Hen Hud swept Union-Endicott (Section 4) and Ossining, trailing, 2-1, after three games, overcame Horseheads (Section 4), to earn the program’s first trip to the final four.
“During the first two games, the Mount Academy certainly was outplaying us on offense,” said Flaherty, who played on Haldane’s 2011 state-championship team. “Their hitters exposed some open spots on our side of the court.
“After the first two sets I pulled the team in and talked to them about all of the intentions that we had for this game, and all of our goals that were in our reach for this entire season. I kept telling them that I believed in them, and that they needed to believe in themselves and in each other. When my team took the court in the third set I could tell that they had a different mindset, one that showed everyone in the gym that they were not going to give up. I reassured them that mistakes would happen because that’s a part of this game, but to come out of the mistakes stronger, and try not to make the same one twice. in game three I think we started playing smarter volleyball. We started to expose their holes on defense which really took some of their stronger hitters out of system.”
Flaherty noted that the senior leadership of captains Melissa Rodino, Grace Tomann and Olivia Monteleone was vital to Haldane maintaining its composure and rallying to the win.
“They were able to listen to me as I was giving them pointers and they were relaying the information to the rest of the team,” Flaherty said.
Haldane, 20-2 this season, faced one more major hurdle, in the decisive game, as Mount Academy led, 20-15. Flaherty called a timeout and provided encouraging words.
“During that time out I told them not to look at the scoreboard. I told them to play every single volley with heart,” Flaherty said. “I reassured them that they have to want it to win it, and want it more than the team across the net, and I could tell that they not only wanted to win, but they were not going to accept defeat. After that timeout we kept our serves strong and dominated on offense. We were not playing scared and we were swinging away.”
Flaherty won a state title in 2011 and now she has the opportunity to guide her alma mater to yet another state title, what would be the fifth in program history.
“To say I’m proud of the team is an understatement,” Flaherty said. “I have never felt anything like this in my entire life. I was in their shoes back in 2011, also fighting to get into the state tournament. All of the emotions that I felt back then, I know they felt them too after that win.
“Going to the final four has been our goal from the very beginning of the season. I always believed that they could do it. All the talent in the world can win you games, but teamwork and heart can win you a championship, and I know we have that.
“It was my dream back then to win states, and it is now my dream as a coach for my players to do the same.”
OSSINING, after rallying from a 0-2 deficit to defeat North Rockland in the Secton1 Class AA final, faced a familiar foe in the regional semifinal – Pine Bush.
Pine Bush ended Ossining’s 2018 state-championship aspirations in a regional final. The teams met twice during the regular season, at the Panas tournament. Pine Bush beat Ossining in pool play, but the Pride prevailed in a semifinal.
Now, Ossining had the opportunity to end Pine Bush’s season and make the Section 9 champion feel the sting of a state-playoff loss. And the Pride did it, in five.
“After we beat them, in the semis, we knew we could compete with them,” said junior and Captain Ede Walker. “Last year, we were mentally psyched out. This year, we focused on what we can do and not be intimidated by them.”
Pine Bush did push Ossining to five games, but the Pride responded and are moving on.
“I think that was a highlight of our whole season,” said Walker of eliminating Pine Bush. “We wanted to end their season. But, we also wanted to do this for Mychel (Vernon) for her senior year. She has helped us all become better players, from the start.”
Vernon finished with 44 kills, four blocks, an assist and an ace.
Zoe Farmakopoulos added 19 kills, while Briana Culcay had 50 assists and two aces. Ossining remained undefeated at 22-0.
Horseheads and Ossining alternated game wins with the Section 4 champion taking games one and three. No problem for Ossining, trailing 2-1 after three games. The Pride had Horseheads right where they wanted it.
Deficits don’t phase Ossining as evidenced by the sectional final against North Rockland. Walker credits Ossining Coach Lauren Riccardi with preparing the team for challenging situations.
“We’ve been mentally strong from the beginning of playoffs,” Walker said. “Coach Riccardi has been preparing us for times when we are down. We’ve stayed mentally strong and we pick each other up like a family. We work together for our greater good toward a common goal.”
The decisive game went to a tiebreaker with Ossining’s mental toughness and talent prevailing, 27-25.
“After winning game four, we realized what we can do when we play our game,” Walker said. “We focused on fundamentals, being in the right place and getting it to the right people to finish out the game.”
Ossining girls’ sports has always been recognized for the powerhouse basketball team. However, the volleyball team has established itself as the other Pride girls’ championship team and first-time state-final-four participant.
“It feels unreal and we’re so excited to be going to the final four,” Walker said. “We’ve worked our hardest to win. We’ve come so far from the beginning of the season. It makes us feel so proud of ourselves. Coach Riccardi pushed us, she believed is in us and she made us believe in ourselves.”
HENDRICK HUDSON found itself in an unfamiliar position in the regional semifinal against Cornwall after the Section 9 champion won the first two games.
It was the first time the Sailors lost the first two games in a match this season. No problem, though, for Callie Pidoriano and her teammates.
Hen Hud (23-0) stormed back to even the match at 2-2, then took the decisive game to eliminate Cornwall and exact revenge. Last year, Cornwall defeated Hen Hud in a regional semifinal.
“I think what really motivate us when Cornwall had a two-set lead on us was the fact that we knew this was our last chance to make it count,” Pidoriano said. “And eight of us are seniors on the team and we all knew that this could be our last chance playing together and we didn’t want to be done yet.”
Pidoriano and her teammates felt a momentum shift after winning the fourth game to even the match.
“I think we all thought back to last year, and did not want a repeat of that game so we had to make it happen and fought back,” Pidoriano said. “I think our heart and composure as a team helped us fight back this game. Beating Cornwall, after losing to them last year made it all even sweeter.”
Hen Hud returns to the state final four aiming to reach an eight state final and win a fourth state title for legendary coach Diane Swertfager, who has led the Sailors to nine NYS Region 1 titles. Pidoriano finished with 14 assists, two aces and six digs. Marist–bound Caitlin Weimer had 10 kills and 10 blocks. Ashanti Davis added eight kills and seven blocks. Julieta Antman contributed two aces while Natalie Urra had 18 digs.
“I am so honored to be a part of this team and I am so impressed that we never gave up,” Pidoriano said. “We are so excited about making it to the final four and it means the world to our seniors.”
KENNEDY CATHOLIC finished second in the Catholic High School Athletic Association State Championship.
The Lady Gaels lost, in three sets, to St. Mary’s of Lancaster, N.Y. St. Mary’s was representing the Buffalo Catholic schools.
Kennedy earned a berth in the final with a semifinal victory over The Mary Louis Academy (Brooklyn/Queens), 19-25, 25-21 and 25-19.
According to Kennedy Coach Tony Santora, this is the first time Kennedy was second in the Catholic State Volleyball Championship.
“St. Mary’s had a lot of down time and we were pushing our sets beyond the usual limits all day,” Santora said. “My ladies had a tremendous run. What we lacked in height we made up with in heart. I am very proud of what my ladies have accomplished this season. What coach wouldn’t be?”
Santora cited Julia Costa, Madison Troetti, Grace Tompkins and Anna Cascapera with leading Kennedy’s offensive attack. He credited Ginny Capellupo, Jaclyn Garbarino and Madison Cartisano with anchoring the defense. He also noted the contributions of Erin Brann, Joanna Longest, Shannon Harrison, Jasmine Henriques and Sophia Frantzeskos to Kennedy’s successful tournament.