February 18, 2010
Magical ride over for CHS
CHITTENANGO — “Something wasn’t on. We didn’t play like we have been. Maybe it was chemistry or nerves.”
That was Cortland High volleyball coach Cheri Olson’s succinct summation of the end of her ninth-seeded Purple Tigers’ magic ride in the Section 3 Class A tournament, a 25-15, 25-18, 25-17 semifinal loss to No. 4 Oneida Wednesday night at Chittenango.
Olson had earlier mentioned that senior setter Sarah Curtis, one of CHS’s captains, was unable to make the trip due to illness, noting: “That’s kind of like losing your quarterback before the Super Bowl.”
In addition, junior right side Kelsey Wetherell was out of town and unavailable. Olson refused to use the circumstances as an excuse, however.
“Our bench is deep enough that we still could have won,” she said. “Jenna (Gregory, sophomore setter who started in place of Curtis) did a good job of putting the ball up there, but we couldn’t get any kills. We didn’t play our game. We’re a strong defensive team, but we had trouble with serve receive.”
Oneida coach Cyndi Bobo was unaware that CHS was short-staffed.
“With two starters out, it had to be tough,” she said. “They didn’t go away. I told the girls that they were going to keep fighting us to the end, and they did.”
The win enabled the Indians, now 13-4, to advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. Class A championship match at Jamesville-DeWitt against sixth-seeded Fulton (13-7), which ousted No. 2 Homer 25-22, 25-21, 22-25, 25-13 in the other semifinal.
The Purple Tigers, who finished the season 10-9, came in hot, with five-set wins over No. 9 East Syracuse-Minoa and top-seeded New Hartford in their first two sectional matches. It was Oneida, however, that got off to a fast start, scoring eight of the first nine points in the opening game of the match. Cortland never got closer than four (15-11) thereafter in what ended up a 25-15 Indians victory, led by senior middle hitter Rachael Kline’s six kills.
CHS led by as many as five in the second game, the last time at 13-8. Oneida, however, took charge with an 11-2 run from that point for a 19-15 lead and, after the Purple Tigers closed to within 19-17, ended the game with a 6-1 flurry to take command of the match, Kline adding four more kills.
“WE HAVE A tendency to let down when we get the lead. We have all season long,” Olson said. “Between serve receive and bad hits, we gave them 10 points. You can’t afford to do that against a good team. We haven’t played any teams this season, except for Homer, who have as many good hitters as Oneida. We’re used to a different type of play.”
“Against Watertown last Thursday, we were down 21-13 in the second game,” Bobo said of what ended up a 25-16, 26-24, 25-17 quarterfinal win by her team against the fifth-seeded Purple Cyclones. “Coming from behind like that helped us tonight when we had to do it. I’ve tried to instill in the girls that when they play their game they can come back against anyone. This was one of our top two matches of the season, along with the one against Watertown.”
“We always get a little relaxed when we win the first game, thinking that it’s not going to be that hard,” Kline said. “The Watertown match proved to us that you can’t let up; you have to keep going, which is what we did tonight.”
The third game was tightly-contested, Cortland leading just once, 3-2, and Oneida scoring four straight points, two on kills by sophomore middle hitter Paige Pendleton (who wound up with seven in the game) to break a 4-4 tie and take the lead for good. A four-point burst gave the Indians an 18-11 advantage, and they scored the last five points of the game to win the match, the last one on a slam by Pendleton that was returned out of bounds by CHS.
On the night, Kline had 13 kills, two aces, six digs and four blocks for Oneida, while Pendleton had 11 kills, a dig and a block, senior outside hitter Clare Henry six kills and seven digs, junior setter Shannon Dowling 16 assists, five aces and 10 digs and junior setter Melissa Murawski 14 assists, three aces and three digs. Senior middle back Lisa Dovi, a co-captain along with Curtis, had five kills, two blocks and six digs for Cortland, while Gregory had two kills, three assists and eight digs, senior outside hitter Josie Roberts a kill and five digs, junior outside hitter Kaylee Gebhardt two kills and four digs and junior libero Amanda Shelley 13 digs.AS NOTED, CORTLAND had beaten top-seeded New Hartford in five games (23-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22) in the quarterfinals last Thursday to advance to Tuesday’s contest. The Spartans had come into that match 12-0, two of those wins against Oneida en route to the championship of the Tri-Valley League.
“We tried to push that out, and just fine-tune what we’d worked on all season in preparing for this match,” Bobo said.
“It was a bit of a concern, but not for the most part,” Pendleton said of Cortland’s success against her team’s two-time conquerors. “We were excited to be in the semis, so it wasn’t that much of a concern.”
“Communication was definitely a key for us,” said Kline, an opinion that was shared by Pendleton. “We also worked well as a team. We all have good attitudes.”
“We’ve come a long way in two years,” said Olson, who completed her second season after replacing long-time Purple Tigers coach Mary Lou Bordwell and had only three seniors on her 13-player roster this winter. “I’m beyond proud of this team; no one thought we’d go this far.
“I hate how it ended after the season was so awesome and the girls played so well. I’m sure it will be a miserable bus ride home, but I’m going to remind them of their wonderful season and tell them to remember that and not dwell on this match.,”
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