Lady Bills ready for state tournament

JOHNSTOWN – Experience may give the Johnstown girls volleyball team the edge they need this weekend at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship tournament this weekend.

For the third-straight year the Lady Bills earned a final four berth in the Class B tournament that opens Saturday and concludes with the championship matches Sunday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

“Since it is our third straight trip to the state tournament the girls know what to expect,” Johnstown coach Heather McGuire said. “The atmosphere at the Civic Center is unique and can be loud and overwhelming. However, the girls know what to expect and we have played in many tournaments this year, which have helped us prepare.”

The Lady Bills (17-1 overall) will open their quest for a state Class B championship at 8:30 a.m. Saturday against Section IV champion Owego. Their second match of the day be against Section V champion Honeoye Falls-Lima and will close out pool play against Section XI champion Elwood-John H. Glenn.

John Glenn is the two-time defending state champion and was the opening-game opponent for the Lady Bills the past two years. Playing them last in pool play may be a positive switch.

“John Glenn is the two-time defending state champion so it’s nice not to start the day off playing them,” McGuire said. “However, we expect that Owego and Honeoye Falls-Lima are just as tough. We know that we are facing three tough teams this weekend and we are not going to take anyone lightly.”

Honeoye Falls-Lima and Owego are making their first appearances at the tournament.

The Lady Bills have faced top-level competition all season in tournament play.

“We have seen John Glenn play twice this year at the Burnt Hills tournament,” McGuire said. “That was much of the reason why we signed up for that tournament. They are still a great team and expect them to play like defending state champions. I am not as familiar with Owego and Honeoye Falls-Lima but have been doing research. We know they beat good teams to make it to the tournament and each of them has height.”

The Lady Bills did not have an easy trip into the state tournament.

In the Section II Class B championship match, Johnstown rallied from the brink of elimination to edge Gloversville in a five-game thriller. Last Saturday the Lady Bills again overcame a slow start to defeat Section 7 champion Beekmantown in four games.

“The girls are aware of the holes they have dug throughout the season,” McGuire said. “We have made a habit of ‘digging holes’ but to our relief we usually dig ourselves out, while giving most of our fans heart attacks along the way. But seriously, the girls know they only have six games to prove ourselves and need to be fired up from the first point to the last.”

The tournament opens with pool play Saturday with each team playing the other three in two games. The two teams with the most victories will advance to Sunday morning’s championship match.

Although the Lady Bills have lost only one match this season, they have yet to win a game in their two pervious appearances at the state tournament.

A fact that McGuire said her team is not focusing on.

“Not at all,” she said when asked if the girls were concerned. “There were many factors that were out of our control that caused us to go 0-6 last year. For one, we had two starters who were injured, which caused most of the problem. We also have a very different team dynamic this year. The girls have a positive team chemistry, which has been tried and tested throughout the season. The girls are extremely focused and know exactly what to expect on Saturday.”

Opening ceremonies for the morning session, featuring the Class A, B and C schools, is slated for 7:40 a.m. Morning play opens with six rounds of pool play in the semifinals starting at 8:30 a.m.

The afternoon session featuring the Class AA and D schools will start at 2 p.m. with opening ceremonies and play starting at 3 p.m.

The tournament concludes Sunday with the Class B title match played at noon.

Competing for the Class AA title will be John Jay (Section 1), Mercy (Section 5), Baldwinsville (Section 3) and Massapequa (Section 8).

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Section 2) will battle for their third-straight Class A championship against Cornwall (Section 9), Pittsford Sutherland (Section 5) and Kings Park (Section 11).

Section 2 champion Voorheesville will take on Millbrook (Section 9), two-time defending state champion Eden (Section 6) and Mattituck (Section 11 in the Class C tournament.

Section 2 champion Waterford will face Randolph (Section 6), Haldane (Section 1) and Tioga (Section 4) in its quest for a state championship.

“How the girls played Saturday against Beekmantown proved that we belong at the state tournament,” McGuire said. “I am very proud of the girls and believe they will continue to show how tough they are this weekend.”