Championship season a testament to hard work

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Setting up a championship: As Voorheesville’s primary setter, senior Devin Racey was a key player in the Blackbirds’ run to a Class C regional title. Here, Racey sets the volleyball during the regional final win over Canastota last Saturday. Racey had 24 assists, six aces, three kills, and four digs in the match.

CASTLETON-ON-HUDSON — Hard work often leads to success. The Voorheesville volleyball players fully comprehend this concept, and that’s why their season ended with a regional championship.

Last Saturday’s Class C regional title was two years in the making behind the energy and experience of Head Coach Adrian Michalski. He won Voorheesville’s last regional championship with his triplet brothers — Austin and Ian — in 2006.

“I made them understand that if they were going to buy in and do this together that, over time, we would get there,” Michalski said after the Blackbirds’ win over Canastota at Maple Hill High School. “This team kept working hard, kept improving, and did not get complacent in their abilities. Just until yesterday, they were still improving their game.”

Voorheesville made the Section 2 Class C semifinals in Michalski’s first season. This year, the Birds won three more matches to be the last small-school team standing in the state.

“I never imagined that we would win regionals,” said sophomore Braden Racey.

“I’m really glad that we did,” added Racey’s older brother, Devin, a senior.

Clearly, Voorheesville played stronger than Section 3’s Canastota. The Blackbirds made fewer mistakes, made some incredible digs, and hit the volleyball harder en route to its straight-sets victory (25-13, 25-18, and 25-13).

“Everyone was very excited,” Devin Racey said. Especially senior Liam Brennan, who nailed two vicious spikes at the end.

Senior Kristian Singh said that Coach Michalski brings a special presence to the team. “Being a great volleyball player that has played here, he pushes us to do our best,” said Singh. “He tells us how it is. We want to impress him and do our best.”

Through Michalski, the Voorheesville players channeled an attitude similar to what their coach experienced on the court 10 years ago.

“Everyone expects and wants to win right now; it’s a real factor right now,” Singh said. “It’s working. We kept on being aggressive, kept our confidence up, and kept attacking.”

Michalski told The Enterprise that Voorheesville’s pursuit of success was a shared agreement between him and his players. “We can get there if we work together,” said the coach.

Call of the Blackbird: Liam Brennan, right, and Devin Racey show their excitement after winning a Class C regional volleyball championship for Voorheesville last Saturday at Maple Hill High School. The Birds beat Section 3’s Canastota in straight sets (25-13, 25-18, and 25-13). Voorheesville last won a regional title in 2006 when Coach Adrian Michalski was a player in his senior year. The Enterprise — Michael Koff


Tom Kurkjian started Voorheesville volleyball in 1971. He was at Maple Hill last Saturday to support Michalski and the Blackbirds. Kurkjian coached Voorheesville to back-to-back regional titles in 2005 and 2006, but after the Michalski triplets graduated, the team started to slip into obscurity.

Now that the Blackbirds are successful again, Kurkjian says, more people will start to think about volleyball. “Sometimes, people get tired of playing basketball or sitting the bench,” he said. “They played volleyball in gym class, and see these volleyball players having fun instead of being told, ‘You can’t run as fast as your mother’s sneakers,’ or whatever coaches do to get into their craw. You draw people who want to win and have fun.”

In the years leading up to Michalski becoming the coach, Voorheesville had to fight against the chopping block of the school budget a few times; the team was doing poorly and traveling long distances for games. Then, young kids like the Racey brothers came through with years in front of them, “and then they get their friends,” said Michalski, “who are athletic, and they all push ahead.”

Devin Racey said that Michalski put the Blackbirds in line. Leading up to last Saturday’s match, the team worked on ways to get the middle hitters to hit a quicker set; he finished the match with 24 assists.

Individually and as a team, Michalski said, Voorheesville focused only on what it could control after a bad match against Cobleskill at the end of the regular season. “That mentality really helped us focus,” he said. “That was a pivotal point as we really started to push and progress. It’s never too late to make adjustments.”

After the work of an entire season, Saturday was “the top moment where everything came together,” said Singh. He hopes to play volleyball in some capacity at college next year even though he wasn’t playing just two years ago.

Michalski came in, recruited athletes, and prospered. It didn’t take long at all.

“You gather from wherever,” Michalski said. “Anyone who works hard in practice will improve. All these kids know that, no matter how much they play. It’s about repetition and repeating those skills every single day. If you give it your best, you will improve, and that’s what happened here.”

Schuyler King tips the volleyball over the net for Voorheesville during the Class C regional final match against Canastota at Maple Hill last Saturday. The Blackbirds won, 3 to 0. King had five kills and three digs, and Braden Racey had seven kills and nine digs. The Enterprise — Michael Koff


Hammering a spike for Voorheesville is Liam Brennan as Canastota’s Michael McDermott extends for the block. Brennan had four kills and one block, including the kill that ended the match; the Blackbirds won the Class C regional championship in three straight sets. The Enterprise — Michael Koff


The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.