State title escapes Voorheesville, again
VOORHEESVILLE — Four straight years trying for a state championship, and no titles, but the Voorheesville volleyball players and their coach believe it’s a blessing to have even competed for one.
“Winning would be great, but making it there is more than enough,” said senior Tori Hargrave this week. “Everyone wants to win, and some people would be more upset with losing, but playing is enough [for me].”
Voorheesville senior Libby Bjork, who was named a New York State All-Star for the fourth consecutive season, said that it was tough and disappointing to end her high school volleyball career without a Class C state title, but she has no regrets. “It didn’t matter to win or lose,” she said. “I just wanted us to play. I was with my team, and that’s all that matters.”
Head Coach Ashley Swint told The Enterprise that it’s still an unbelievable feeling to make it to Glens Falls for the state competition. “I’m satisfied, and we play to win,” she said. “It’s disappointing, but we had another phenomenal season.”
Last Saturday in Glens Falls, the Blackbirds played two sets each against Millbrook, Eden, and Mattituck. Voorheesville dropped its first four sets — two against Millbrook (15-25, 14-25) and two against Eden (11-25, 13-25), before sweeping Mattituck (25-15, 25-5).
Eden and Millbrook advanced to Sunday’s final, and Eden won its third straight state championship.
Eden and Millbrook are both great teams, but Voorheesville didn’t show up like they should have, Hargrave said. “That’s life,” she went on. “We have good days and we have bad days. Mentally, we weren’t seeing it like we should. We had been cohesive in previous games, but we weren’t on Saturday.”
Knowing that she wouldn’t be playing with her Voorheesville teammates again, Hargrave cried after Saturday’s play came to an end. Still, she has no regrets.
“I’ve played with these girls for years, and I love them, so it’s hard to grasp,” said Hargrave. “They’re all great, and phenomenal players. We’re best friends, so we’ll still hang out and bond.”
Swint, who had to leave Glens Falls after the Birds played Millbrook to attend her sister’s wedding, said that her team came out flat. “Millbrook was a great serving team — low, floating jump serves — and we got down,” she said. “I don’t know if we came out strong enough, and we focused too much on what wasn’t working. We had to find our energy.”
Millbrook was one of the best serving teams Voorheesville saw all season, said Swint. “We worked on that all week,” she said, “but it’s a big stage.”
The Blackbirds had prepared to be without junior Nicole Brower, who was recovering from recent surgery, but Brower ended up being cleared by her doctor to play on Saturday. However, she wasn’t put into her normal role of a power hitter up front; she played in the back.
“Mentally, we weren’t all there, not on the same page,” Bjork said. “We didn’t play very well. You win some, and lose some, but we were excited to be there.”
Bjork said that it was sad to see Swint leave in the middle of the competition, but Swint said that the team had talked about the importance of her sister’s wedding. Assistant Coach Adrian Michalski, a former Voorheesville boys’ volleyball player, took over on the sidelines.
“My leaving didn’t really have any effect,” said Swint. “They told me to have fun, and I told them to have fun.”
“I wish she had been there at the end,” Bjork said of Swint. “Adrian was a good leader though, so it wasn’t a huge deal.”
All season, and for the previous two years, Swint had pushed Voorheesville to be the best that it could be, said Bjork. “She knew when we weren’t at our best, and pointed us in the right direction,” she said.
The Blackbirds were the number-two seed in Class C of Section 2, beating the number-one team from Broadalbin-Perth. “People saw our weaknesses, but we always executed,” Swint said. “We made it to States.”
“People thought that we couldn’t make it this year,” Bjork added. “We played so great.”
Despite being a volleyball wizard and getting numerous looks from colleges, Bjork will put her playing career aside to study for a career in medicine. She said that the sport provided her friendships, made her learn the true meaning of teamwork, and made her grow as an individual.
“It’s about discipline, and being selfless,” Bjork said. “Not everything is for you. Each play, you count on the rest of your team, and your team is counting on you.”
Winning state titles was a goal for Voorheesville, but maybe not the overall point.
“I know that every time we were there, we tried the best that we could,” said Bjork. “There’s not much else you can do about it.”
Are there more state competitions to be had for the Blackbirds in the future?
“Maybe, who knows,” Hargrave said. “It’s completely up to the girls, if they work hard enough.”
Swint said she’s on board as coach for a while; the team has lots more to accomplish.
“We’ll have to rebuild, but we can work to be a contender,” she said. “We’ve got some young talent.”
Hargrave, Bjork, Caroline Bablin, and Erin Gannon will graduate from Voorheesville next June. Brower, Kimmy McQuade, Lizzie Bablin, Meaghan O’Keefe, Jordan Champion, Eileen Thompson, Lauren Mackey, and Amanda Bache will remain with the team.
“Big shoes need to be filled,” Bjork said. “As long as they work hard, they’ll be successful.”