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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 24, 2011

Lady Blackbirds sent home on Saturday

By Jordan J. Michael

GLENS FALLS –– The play from the Voorheesville volleyball team was bipolar on Saturday. It was either brilliant or prone to mistakes. It may have been both at the same time.

The Lady Birds were inconsistent over the seven sets it played in the state semifinals at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The seventh set, a tiebreaker against Rhinebeck to see who would play eventual Class C champion Eden on Sunday, got away from Voorheesville, ending a stellar season.

The most mind-blowing swing of the day came against Mattituck. In the first set, Libby Bjork and Tori Hargrave served Voorheesville to a 21-to-4 lead. It was a breeze. The offense and defense ran as smooth as liquid.

In the second set, Mattituck had the lead for the majority of the game while the Blackbirds committed gaffes. But, Voorheesville eventually found urgency and won the set, 26 to 24, to earn its tiebreaker against Rhinebeck.

Voorheesville’s identity was unclear, but its effort was unquestioned. The team hoped to play on Sunday, but fate had other plans.

“I don’t think we were inconsistent,” said sophomore Libby Bjork this week when asked about Voorheesville’s play on Saturday. “We always play our best. It was a long day.”

Volleyball is an unforgiving sport. The ball bounces to places players never thought it would. It’s chaotic, so playing well takes razor-sharp focus.

Bjork, one of the best setters around, knows that volleyball leaves little room for error. “Every team goes up and down, it happens,” she said. “You just never know.”

However, one thing was apparent on Saturday. Eden was almost unstoppable, winning all six of its sets on the way to a state title on Sunday. Voorheesville played Eden the toughest on Saturday, holding a 23-to-19 lead in the first set, but some kills by the Raiders’ Lainy Pierce and some blunders by the Birds gave Eden the win.

The set should have gone to Voorheesville. Eden took the second set in commanding fashion. Again, fate had other plans.

“They (Eden) just got to us,” said senior Sarah Dykstra after losing to the Raiders. “They already had this mindset of winning...there were some bad calls, but we hit out and made some mistakes, too.”

Voorheesville’s season ended around 9 p.m. Dykstra was clearly devastated, crying as her teammates comforted her.

Dykstra was unable to play in last year’s state tournament because she was sick, so this year’s event was really important to her. She got a second chance, but was unable to call herself a state champion. Her sadness showed how much she cared.

“I’m so glad to be able to play this time,” Dykstra said on Saturday between games. “We pushed through to get back here. It’s awesome.”

 “Getting back to this point was our goal,” said senior Jessica Brower after the night ended. “We’re glad to have played. We enjoyed every minute.”

Senior Sarah Williams, who won the Sportsmanship Award, giggled as the girls assembled for a team picture. Dykstra was still crying. Finally, Brower and Williams ran off for a team picture. Voorheesville had achieved its goal.

Coach Ashley Swint, new this season, said that the Lady Blackbirds overcame obstacles to get back to the Civic Center. “Everything has been great,” she said. “Sure, we’d love to move on, but what happens, happens. We gave it our all.”

It was a different team, but the state tournament was relatively the same experience for the players who were there last year. “We had a lot of adjusting to do, and we adjusted well,” said junior Caroline Bablin. “We came a long way.”

Before Voorheesville walked out for the opening ceremonies on Saturday, Swint said that her players were singing songs and playing some sort of bunny game. Swint doesn’t get involved with the quirky behavior, but she said that it’s “cool.”

As the eight Class C and Class B teams walked out to the arena floor in single file, a fan yelled, “Take no prisoners!” Voorheesville players, dressed in matching black jackets and purple shorts, circled around, eventually facing the crowd in single file.

“It’s nice for everyone to get recognized,” said Swint. “I’ve never been a part of something like that.”

Sandy Vorse, the only coach Voorheesville ever knew before Swint, was there to support her former team. She now lives in Florida, but flew up to surprise the team on Friday. She was cheering in the stands all day, saying things like, “Push five,” and making bird noises.

Also in attendance were Morgan Vandervort, Rebecca Bablin, and Alexis Hargrave, graduates who fought their hardest to win a state title one year ago. They, along with Vorse, wanted to see if this year’s team could close the deal that they started in 2011.

Voorheesville came up a bit shorter this time, but there are no regrets. No doubt this team will be back for another try, bringing along the faithful families and fans.

“We worked together and never gave up,” Bjork said.

“It’s a tough loss, but we can only be proud,” said Swint.

“We played really great,” Bablin said. “It was fun.”

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