GLENS FALLS - When the top four Class B volleyball teams in New York State get together Saturday at the state championship tournament at the Glens Falls Civic Center, there will be a sense of familiarity.
Three of the teams - Johnstown (Section II), John Glenn (Section XI) and Pelham (Section I) - were all there last year with John Glenn defeating Pelham for the state title. Marcellus (Section III) finished third but did not make the cut this year. Instead, Skaneateles will join the Rush at the Falls on Saturday when the state tournament returns to the Civic Center.
Johnstown (18-3) will open the two-game tournament pool play at 8:30 a.m. Saturday against defending state champion John Glenn (15-0). The Lady Bills then will take a two-match break before returning to the court to play Skaneateles (17-1) before closing out the opening-day competition after a one-match break against Pelham (20-0).
"It is absolutely an advantage," Johnstown coach Heather McGuire said about facing Glenn and Pelham again. "We are familiar with the competition. We have already played John Glenn once this year so we are familiar with their girls and their big hitter. It is definitely an advantage."
The Lady Bills advanced to their second-straight final four appearance with a four-game victory over Beekmantown (Section VII) and a sweep of Massena (Section X).
Glenn advanced to the final four by sweeping Seaford on scores of 25-16, 25-12 and 25-11 to win its 12th straight Class B Long Island championship.
What: New York State Public High School Athletic Association volleyball championships
When: Saturday, Sunday
Where: Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls
The Matchup: Pool play - Section II champion Johnstown (18-3 overall) vs. Section XI champion John Glenn (15-0), Section III champion Skaneateles (17-1) and Section I champion Pelham (20-0)
Notes: Pool play will begin at 8:30 a.m. The top two finishers in the pool play will meet Sunday at 10 a.m. in the championship match. John Glenn defeated Pelham to win the state Class B title last year. Skaneateles is making its first state semifinal appearance.
Skaneateles, which recently made the switch from winter to fall volleyball, is making its first appearance at the state tournament after sweeping Olean to earn the Section III berth.
Pelham has put together an impressive 20-0 season and rallied after dropping the opening game to Corning East 22-25 to post wins of 25-17, 25-12 and 25-20.
"They [Pelham] have an ax to grind just like we do," McGuire said. "They want to get it done. Everybody shows up to this tournament wanting to win it all. We definitely are going to learn from last year and improve on it."
Johnstown played John Glenn at the Burnt Hills Tournament this season, but came up on the short end of the 25-21 and 25-15 pool play scores.
"We played them at 8 a.m. in the tournament at Burnt Hills," McGuire said. "We hung with them and we didn't even have our lineup really ironed out at that point. We definitely have the confidence that we can hang with them."
As a prep for the tournament, the Lady Bills scrimmaged a pair of state championship contenders - Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Voorheesville - Wednesday.
"It was awesome," McGuire said. "Burnt Hills has played John Glenn four times this year so basically playing Burnt Hills and Voorheesville is as good of competition as you can get to get ready for this. We saw exactly what we needed and what to work on and it definitely gave us a big confidence boost."
Skaneateles will be looking to upset the three state-tournament experienced squads in their first Rush at the Falls.
"Skaneateles, from what I understand, plays really great volleyball," McGuire said. "There are a lot of really great teams around Syracuse and just because they are new to playing in the fall and to playing in the state tournament, I think they are going to come prepared and definitely deserve to be there."
The tournament opens with pool play on Saturday with each team playing the other three in two games. The two teams with the most victories will advance to Sunday morning's championship match.
Having played in three tournaments this season and with many of the Lady Bills playing offseason volleyball, tournaments may prove beneficial in their quest to reach the finals.
"That is the thing with tournament play, you only have two games to prove that you are the better team," McGuire said. "In a three-out-of-five match, you have more time to develop and figure out the team you are playing. You only have two games so you have to come out swinging. So, at 8:30 in the morning Saturday, we are coming out swinging. We have adjusted our goals all year and achieved them. Our goal is to be playing again on Sunday."