Lady Bills advance to state semifinals

GLOVERSVILLE – As it has many times this season, the Johnstown volleyball team needed a rally to win Saturday’s regional championship match against Beekmantown at Gloversville High School.

Beekmantown won the first set 25-18, only to have the Lady Bills rally to win the final three sets by scores of 25-23, 25-11 and 25-20 to win the regional title for the third straight year.

Each of those titles have come at the expense of the Eagles.

Junior Annie Stock led Johnstown with 23 digs, 18 kills, two aces and one block, while Alyssa Nellis posted 17 digs, 11 blocks, seven kills and two aces.

Hannah Breda finished with 16 blocks, four kills and three digs for the Lady Bills, Brianne O’Rourke had 13 blocks and four kills and Jerica Holland had 22 assists, 10 digs and two aces. Kaitlyn Duesler finished with seven digs, four kills and two blocks for Johnstown, while Morgan Catania added 13 assists and six digs.

For Beekmantown, the ending was a familiar one.

The Eagles have won four straight Section VII Class B titles since the section moved volleyball from the winter to the fall season in 2010. However, Beekmantown has yet to advance past the regional finals. The Eagles lost to Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk in 2010 and Johnstown in each of the last three years.

“I really thought we had our best chance this year,” Beekmantown coach Shana Hileman said. “It’s always tough to have a season end on a match like this. We gave it our all.”

Senior Jordynne Ales finished with a career-high 50 digs for the Eagles. She also had six service points, including one ace. Senior Evelyn Vicencio posted 25 digs for Beekmantown.

“Ales and Vivencio played well defensively,” Hileman said. “They had a ton of digs between them.”

Shannon Ryan finished with 15 digs, 12 points and 10 kills for the Eagles, Michaela Lafountain posted 36 assists, 10 digs, eight points, three aces and three kills, and Emily Anderson had 11 digs, six kills and four points. Mikaela Frechette added 12 digs and seven kills, while Hunter Gates added seven digs, four kills and two points.

Beekmantown stormed out of the gates in the first set, surging to a 4-0 lead on a four-point service run by Lafountain.

“We came out very strong in the first game,” Hileman said. “We executed at key times and our serving was on.”

The Eagles controlled play throughout the first set, getting three kills and four service points from Kelly, two kills from Anderson and three service points from Ales.

Johnstown struggled to adjust to Beekmantown’s towering front line in the early stages of the match, falling behind 20-11.

“[Beekmantown] is huge on their front line,” Johnstown coach?Heather McGuire said. “We had to figure out how to stop them, once we did, we started to play our game.”

The Eagles won the first set 25-18 and carried their momentum into the second set, grabbing an early 6-2 lead thanks in part to a kill and two service points from Anderson.

“[Beekmantown] was fired up from the start,” McGuire said. “All the credit to them, they came out ready to play in that first game. They played really well offensively.”

Johnstown regrouped to tie the match at 7-7, setting the stage for a back-and-forth battle that featured 18 lead changes or ties.

The Lady Bills used a three-point service run from Catania to grab a 15-13 lead only to have Beekmantown respond by winning 10 of the next 14 points to grab a 23-19 lead.

“The second game was a battle,” Hileman said. “It could have gone either way.”

Johnstown won the next six points to tie the match at one set each and avoid a 2-0 deficit. Duesler ended the set with five straight service points for the Lady Bills.

“We’ve been grinding out matches out all year,” McGuire said. “The girls know how to play point-for-point.”

The Lady Bills carried their momentum to an 8-1 lead at the beginning of the third set, getting a six-point service run from Nellis. Three more points from Catania accompanied by a pair of kills from O’Rourke gave Johnstown an 11-1 lead.

“Johnstown is a very smart team. If you make one mistake against them, they make you pay for it,” Hileman said.

The Lady Bills maintained a lead of nine points or more the rest of the way, cruising to a 25-11 third-set victory.

Many of those points came on blocks from Johnstown’s front line of O’Rourke, Breda and Nellis.

“[Johnstown’s] blocking picked up in the third game,” Hileman said. “We don’t see that type of blocking on a regular basis. You can only prepare for that so much without seeing it in person.”

Johnstown finished with 42 blocks against the Eagles.

“Our net play was incredible today,” McGuire said. “The girls are smart, they figured out what they needed to do, and did it.”

The fourth game was much tighter than the third with Beekmantown taking an early 10-5 lead only to have Johnstown chip away at its deficit before knotting the game at 13-13.

Ryan powered the Eagles’ early flurry with two service points and three kills.

Johnstown took a 16-14 lead after two points from O’Rourke and a kill by Nellis. Beekmantown got back out in front with two points and a kill from Ryan to grab a 19-17 lead.

Johnstown mounted one final rally to close out the match, winning eight of the final nine points to win the final set, 25-20.

“I felt it was right there for us in the fourth game,” Hileman said. “[Johnstown] knows how to win two-hour matches. We can win them too, but Johnstown plays them in a regular basis in their league.”

Johnstown, which won its third straight Section II Class B title last week, will play in the state semifinals for a third straight year.

“We didn’t panic when we got behind,” McGuire said. “We’ve been behind before, including last weekend’s Section II championship match. The girls always find a way to dig themselves out of the hole.”

Johnstown (17-1 overall) moves on to the state Class B semifinals next Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Lady Bills will open pool play against Section IV champion Owego at 8:30 a.m. Also advancing to pool play was Section V champion Honeoye Falls-Lima. The fourth spot will go to either Seaford or Elwood/John Glenn as those two teams play today at St. Joseph’s College.

Beekmantown finished the season with a 17-2 overall record.