JOHNSTOWN - The Johnstown volleyball team's drive back to the state final four begins with a long bus ride north.
The two-time Section II Class B champions are traveling to AuSable Valley High School in Clintonville to face Section VII champion Beekmantown today at 5:30 p.m. in the opening round of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association regional play.
The Class D regional match between Section II champion Hartford and Section VII's Northern Adirondack is scheduled to get under way at 4 p.m. at the same location.
Johnstown’s Annie Stock, right, hits the ball over a pair of Schalmont defenders during the Section II Class B championship match Friday at Stillwater High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Johnstown and Beekmantown met last year in the regional title match with the Lady Bills prevailing in five games 25-22, 25-22, 13-25, 21-25 and 25-18. It was Beekmantown's lone loss of the season.
"Last year, I learned about our team that they are focused, work hard and when they want something, nothing can get in the way," Johnstown coach Heather McGuire said. "This group is the same way."
Champlain Valley Conference champion Beekmantown (17-0) again comes into the tournament undefeated after sweeping past Peru (6-11) in the Section VII title match with scores of 25-11, 25-9 and 25-16.
- What: New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B Regionals
- When: Today, 5:30 p.m.
- Where: AuSable Valley High School, Clintonville
- The matchup: Section II champion Johnstown (16-3) vs. Section VII champion Beekmantown (17-0)
- Notes: Johnstown defeated Beekmantown, 3-1, in regionals last season by scores of 25-22, 25-22, 13-25, 21-25 and 25-18. Beekmantown swept Peru on Saturday to win the Section VII title. Johnstown swept Schalmont on Friday to claim the Section?II crown.
Emily Anderson led the Eagles with 15 points, including nine aces in the title match, while Jordynne Ales added 12 points, with three aces. Shannon Ryan had four blocks and nine kills and Michaela Lafountain had 16 assists to go with four kills.
"Beekmantown is a great team. They have some height and play good defense," McGuire said. "We definitely respect them and are happy to play them. I have seen them at a few tournaments this year and they are definitely a good team. They do have a good libero, but we haven't played them yet this year so my scouting may not be spot-on. But they have faced some teams that we have played and it definitely will be a good matchup."
The Lady Bills (16-3) advanced to regional play with a hard-fought sweep of Schalmont (15-4) on scores of 25-22, 25-22 and 25-22.
"Those were three of the longest games I have coached," McGuire said. "Everybody saw 3-0 but it didn't feel like 3-0 and it didn't feel like 3-0 for the girls. It was definitely a great game to get us ready for today. They played great defense. The ball didn't go down the first time we hit it. We had to hit it two, three, four times to get the point. We had to think about where to put it; we couldn't just slam it and hope for the best. We had to play smart."
If last year's game is any indication, the Eagles also know how to put the ball on the floor and Johnstown knows how to keep it alive.
In the 2011 five-game match at SUNY Plattsburgh, the Lady Bills recorded 146 digs, 40 of which came from Jerica Holland and 28 from Elizabeth Hayward. Both return to the floor today along with Zara Hyde, who had a 49-assist match against Beekmantown and Annie Stock who recorded 25 kills and 29 digs against the Eagles last year.
The Lady Bills approached Monday's practice as they have all season, confident, loose and focused on their next opponent.
"They are in the best of moods right now and are ready. We have been practicing all season long for the post season," McGuire said. "We definitely love to play teams that give us a challenge. We would much rather play someone who will give us a run for our money. They girls are really excited and if we win this we know we will have definitely earned it."
The winner advances to the regional final Saturday at SUNY Canton for a shot at the final four in the Nov. 17-18 state championships at the Glens Falls Civic Center.