February 14, 2011
Homer rises to oust CHS
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Homer Central’s Taryn Heath bumps the ball to her teammates against Cortland High Saturday. Host Homer won the Section 3 Class A quarterfinal round match in four sets.
The excitement level is always high whenever Homer Central and Cortland High teams get together for an athletic contest. Mix in a playoff match-up and the level rises up as does the play of the competitors for each side.
Saturday was a perfect example of that as the top-seeded Trojans hosted the eighth-seed Purple Tiger in Homer in Section 3 Class A volleyball tournament quarterfinals.
After sweeping their rival twice during the regular season, Homer had its hands full with the spirited Cortland ladies before final posting a 24-26, 25-7, 25-14, 25-20 triumph to advance to Wednesday’s 8 p.m. semifinal at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
The Trojans (18-1 overall) will meet the winner of tonight’s quarterfinal winner between fourth-seed Whitesboro (13-3) and fifth-seed New Hartford (10-3). The 6 p.m. semifinal match will have third-seed Oneida (13-3) meeting seventh-seed Fulton (11-7) Wednesday at J-D.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match,” Homer coach Brian Fox said of facing the Purple Tigers for the third time. “You know you’re the one seed going against the eight seed, but they’re your rival. They are going to play their best against you. We forced them to play our play the first two times and didn’t give them anything easy.
“Cortland came out and made us look like the nervous team in the first game,” he continued. “But our girls responded with the heart of a champion two big wins in the second and third games. We were a little flat in the fourth game, but we did enough to get by. This could possibly be our toughest match because it is a rivalry and one team really wants to end the other team’s season.”
“We knew all along that we had not shown them (Homer) what kind of team we were,” Cortland coach Cheri Olson said after her team concluded its season with a 9-8 record. “The first and fourth games we really did what we came here to do. We proved we were not to be walked over. Homer is a good team. They are going to play well. We knew that and we stepped up.
“I feel bad for the seniors,” she added. “It’s heart-wrenching to lose to your rival, but we really played well. We fought back and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
THE FIRST SET was a classic with nine lead changes and a dozen deadlocks. Homer never had more than a one point lead while Cortland enjoyed three-point advantages several times, including a 21-18 cushion after a strong Kelly Knauerhase hit to give the Purple Tigers the serve. After a wide serve gave the ball right back to Homer, a Cortland misplayed hit and point block by Trojan sophomore Taryn Heath tied the match and forced Olson to call time-out.
The Trojans took the lead when Lauren Smith dumped a soft touch over the Cortland blockers for a 22-21 advantage. The Purple Tigers came right back with a deep wining shot by Zakarra Butts, but it wasn’t until a well-placed strike by senior Kelsey Wetherell that Cortland retook a lead at 24-23.
After Homer tied the match at 24-24, the Trojans served the ball long as Cortland had set-point at 25-24. Butts served up an ace and Cortland had won the first set. It was the first set won by the Purple Tigers in the three matches.
That appeared to be the wake-up call the Trojans needed as Karley Brown put the ball in play her first three serves as the Trojans grabbed a 3-0 lead. Senior Katelyn Buchanan got the serve for the Trojans leading 4-1. Homer went on the attack and built a 14-1 cushion before losing serve. Alysha Camp had a pair of kill shots, She teamed with Smith for a pair of point-blocks and Smith had two more soft dinks over the blocking wall during the run. The set ended with Smith delivering a deep hit that forced a double-hit by the Cortland player for the 25-7 win.
“Momentum is everything and we needed to find it,” Homer’s Katie Camp said about that big second set win. “We knew we had to come together as a team and play as a team. We had a lot to prove to Cortland, Maybe we tried a little too hard in that first set, but we settled down and may up for it in the second set.”
“We let down that first game,” Alysha Camp added. “We let Cortland control the game. We were tight and let the pressure get in our heads. We knew we could step up and we did that in the second game.”
THE THIRD SET was close at the start, but Homer used a four-point run to take a 15-8 lead before Olson called a time-out. The Trojans maintained the advantage through the remainder of the set before Smith closed it out at 25-14 with another kill-shot.
Cortland was back on its game in the fourth set and it began unfolding like the first set. There were eight lead changes with Cortland holding its biggest advantage at 9-5 with Homer never leading by more than one point. The Purple Tigers took that four-point cushion with a tip for kill by Kaylee Gebhardt and a service ace, but Homer came back to tie the match at 9-9 on a Cortland miscue. The set was see-saw from that point on.
Cortland senior Carina Clayton delivered a winning hit at 16-16. Butts followed with an ace as the Purple Tigers took their final lead of the afternoon. After a winning point for Cortland, Fox called a time-out to settle his girls down.
The Trojans got the serve back trailing 17-18 and Katie Camp put the ball in play with her serves. Katie Sinclair had a winning redirect of the ball to put the Trojans on top 20-18 which led to Olson calling a time-out.
Knauerhase drove the ball inside the end line to cut the Homer advantage to 20-19, but Alysha Camp returned the favor for a 21-19 lead. Knauerhase kept her team alive with a point-block at 21-20, but the Cortland serve went wide and the Trojans led 22-20. Alysha Camp served up an ace for a 23-20 Homer lead as Olson used her last time-out. Camp kept back with another ace to set up match-point. Sinclair again used a nice redirected ball to score the final point in the 25-20 win as Homer advance to the semifinal round for the second straight year.
HOMER’S HEAT HAD had 30 assists, six digs and two blocks. Smith added 10 kills and two block while Alysha Camp had eight kills, four digs and four aces. Sinclair chipped in with nine kills and three blocks; Katie Camp had 15 digs and two aces; Katelyn Buchanan had six digs and four kills; Brown two kills and two digs with Lainee Reed having six digs and one kill.
For Cortland, Jenna Gregory had 14 digs and 17 assists. Gebhardt had 14 digs and five kills; Wetherell 15 digs and two kills; Maddie Dorward 12 digs; Knauerhase nine kills and two blocks; Amanda Shelley eight digs and two assists, plus Butts had six kills and two aces.
The Trojans lost the four-set semifinal to Fulton at Jamesville-DeWitt last season. They hope for a better result one day earlier this year.
“We now know we can win in four games, or five games,” Katie Camp said. “We know we can push through when we work together. That’s what makes Homer volleyball what it is.”
“It feels real good,” Alysha Camp added. “It’s like all the work this season is paying off. We still need to take it step-by-step. We know we can do it. We know we can win it.”
“We will practice hard this week,” Sinclair said. “We will prepare and look towards having a good match Wednesday. We’ll look to win then and get to the finals. I’m excited about the opportunity we have. I know we can do it.”
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