Lady Birds dig for Class C title face Loudonville Christian again

By Jordan J. Michael

HUDSON FALLS –– Along with the low digs to keep a point alive and the hard swings to increase Voorheesville’s lead in a match, many bright smiles and laughter can be seen or heard.

The Lady Birds’ volleyball team, which won a Class C title in straight sets over Galway (26-24, 25-8, and 25-12) on Tuesday in Hudson Falls, can’t let itself get too uptight. Voorheesville players, now 19-0, will show smiles even in times of panic.

“If you’re tense, you’re more likely to make mistakes,” said senior Rebecca Bablin, who had 15 kills against Galway. “You’re more likely to be successful if you can laugh at the mistakes.”

The Birds rarely make mistakes and seldom trail in a match. However, when a player does make a mistake, like hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net, she might smirk and shrug her shoulders, as if to say, “Oh well, let’s move on.”

“These kids have a great sense of humor and they bring it to the court,” Head Coach Sandy Vorse said of her 11 players.

Freshman Libby Bjork, who had 30 assists, 10 points, and seven digs on Tuesday, said that the Blackbirds are like a “loving, happy family.”

In its three sectional games against Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Maple Hill, and Galway, Voorheesville lost only one set –– to Maple Hill. Things started out tight against the Galway Eagles on Tuesday, but the team eventually started to run on all cylinders.

“We all push to the same goal, and that’s to stay on top,” senior Co-Captain Morgan Vandervort said. “Our biggest strength is staying where we are.”

Galway got out to an 8-to-2 lead in the first set, but six straight Voorheesville points, capped off by a Mariel McGinnis kill, got the score tied up at 8 to 8. Sophomore Anna Feller, who is the Birds’ tallest player, covers the net well and somehow kept finding empty floor on the other side for easy points.

With the score 20 to 18 in the Eagles’ favor, the other senior co-captain, Ellie Wagner, made an amazing diving dig to keep the point alive and Bablin finished it off with a heavy kill. Voorheesville soon tied the set at 23 to 23, and kills by Sarah Dykstra and Bablin set up Vandervort’s service for the set.

Vandervort’s kill clipped the back line and the Blackbirds escaped with the first set, screaming loudly in elation. The team hit full speed after that and never looked back, at times seriously overpowering Galway.

“We were a little off in the first set, but we need that time to warm up,” Vorse said. “We eventually found our tempo and took off.”

Bablin told The Enterprise that her team frequently starts slow. The Birds dropped the first set to Maple Hill on Saturday in the semifinals. “We’re not used to fast speed right away,” she said. “We always recover and win, but starting slow isn’t the best idea.”

What’s the scoop?

Wagner, the libero (defensive specialist) now in her third season, is a digging menace on the floor. Nothing gets past her and she added 26 digs on Tuesday after keeping 38 points alive on Saturday.

Wagner earned the nickname “Scoops” because she can frustrate opponents with her constant sight of the ball and its path.

“I’m determined to never let the ball hit the floor,” said Wagner on Tuesday. “I try to see where its going before it gets there.”

After the ball has been scooped and set in the air for Voorheesville, it’s usually crushed by Vandervort, Bablin, McGinnis, Dykstra, or Feller. The strong hits usually slam the open floor or deflect out of bounds off an opposing player.

Over the summer at the local Voorheesville gym, No Limits Fitness, Vandervort got involved with strength trainer Ron Greenfield. Vandervort tipped off the rest of her team and soon everyone was involved.

“The more we get in shape before the season, the more it helps us now,” Vandervort said after beating BKW at home last Thursday. “It saves us time.”

“We did a lot of upper body and agility stuff, no weights,” Vorse said. “They worked on arm swings a lot and it got repetitive. It’s all about the elbow, not the wrist.”

“When I see that ball,” Vandervort said, “I put as much emotion as I can into it.”

Even though volleyball fans may like the explosive kills and daring digs, for the players, communication is what matters. Great communication leads to points and Voorheesville is always talking on the court.

“You have to second guess yourselves sometimes and players may go for the same ball,” said Vorse on Saturday. “You get used to the person next to you. If it’s someone different, then you have to talk more.”

The Blackbirds frequently practice positioning, but sometimes the ball just has a mind of its own. Volleyball is a game of rebounds.

“We’re familiar with each other’s positioning,” Bablin said. “The more communication, the better.”

“Every now and then, we mess up, but we have it planned out,” said Wagner. “It’s like a prediction. You hope that you’re there to get the ball.”

Vandervort said that everyone on the team has the same specific “feel” for the ball because they’ve been together so long. “We try to prepare ourselves by forgetting about everything and getting into a swing,” she said. “We go out with confidence and picture ourselves winning.”

Well, so far, so good. Winning is all the Blackbirds have done in 2010.

Plus, the team gets added confidence from senior Alexis Hargrave, who Vorse says is the “heart of the team.”

“She keeps us loose and focused and she’ll send us uplifting messages,” Vorse said of Hargrave on Tuesday. “People don’t get to see how much the bench players push this team in practice and off the court. They are the heart of the operation.”

“If I sat all season, I wouldn’t care,” said Hargrave, a utility player. “I love these girls. I would do anything for them.”


With Tuesday’s win for the Class C title, the Lady Birds will play Class CC champ Loudonville Christian today at 3 p.m. at Burnt Hills High School. Voorheesville lost to Loudonville last season in a close Class C final that was decided by a few points.

“They’re good,” Vorse said of Loudonville, which has made States for four years in a row. “We have to come with fight and get our machine going early.”

The winner of today’s match moves to regional play. Before sectional play even started, Vorse said that everything from here on out was “icing on the cake.”

Voorheesville’s cake seems to be half iced at the moment. A win over Loudonville might cover the rest of the surface. “We’re looking to avenge last year,” Vorse said. “We won’t be tense this time, so things will be different. It’ll be a battle.”

“It was really discouraging last time,” Bablin said of the Loudonville match. “We know that they’re the hardest team we’ve faced. I think we can take it.”

“We’re capable of getting through this –– I knew it from the very first day we came together,” said Wagner. “We just know what we’re doing.”

Loudonville is the only team standing between Voorheesville and its castle in the sky. Vandervort said that images from last year keep running through her head with every point.

“This is our motivation, to get revenge,” she said.

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