GLOVERSVILLE - Last season, the road to the state semifinals at the Glens Falls Civic Center involved a pair of lengthy bus trips for the Johnstown volleyball team.
The Lady Bills are hoping a much shorter trip leads to the same outcome today.
Johnstown, which won its third straight Section II Class B title last Saturday, will face Section VII champion Beekmantown today at Gloversville High School at noon.
Johnstown’s Annie Stock, right, goes up for a kill attempt as Gloversville’s Katlyn Pierce, left, looks for the block during a Sept. 25 Foothills Council match at Gloversville High School. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
It marks the third straight year the teams have met in regional play, with Johnstown winning each of the previous two meetings.
"There are a lot of emotions when a team meets each other on a regular basis and playing Beekmantown for the third year in a row can definitely generate some nerves," Johnstown coach Heather McGuire said. "We are working on staying focused and playing our game from the first point to the last point. The girls know and respect Beekmantown's abilities which helps us prepare this week."
Last year, the Lady Bills made the lengthy treks to AuSable Valley High School in Clintonville and SUNY Canton for the regional semifinals and regional championship matches.
In last year's regional semifinals defeated today's opponent, Beekmantown, 3-1 by scores of 25-20, 25-22, 22-25 and 25-18. Johnstown earned its spot in the state Class B semifinals by defeating Section X champion Massena 3-0 by scores of 25-20, 25-13 and 25-12 in the regional finals.
After a nearly 600-mile roundtrip to get back to Glens Falls last season, the Lady Bills will travel just 11 miles roundtrip this time.
"I definitely think it will be to our advantage to play closer to home this year. We were required to drive all over the North Country last year for both regional games," McGuire said. "It was tough. This year, we not only get a bye from the sub-regional game but we travel five minutes down the road and at the end of a long season ever little bit helps. We love playing in the Gloversville gym and hope we will have a large hometown crowd."
Johnstown and Beekmantown met earlier this season in the semifinals of the Power of Pink Tournament at Queensbury High School, with Johnstown advancing.
"We were actually at three of the same tournaments this year, so we were able to see what they are capable of," McGuire said. "They have a good defense and consistently get the ball up. We'll have to be on our offensive game. Also, they have two big middles. So we will practice with those things in mind."
In addition to last year's meeting in regionals, Johnstown posted a 3-2 win over the Eagles in the 2011 regional finals at Plattsburgh State, winning by scores of 25-22, 25-22, 13-25, 21-25 and 25-18.
"We are focusing on starting strong and playing consistent. We have had difficulties in the years past finding first gear in the regional games against Johnstown," Beekmantown coach Shana Hileman said. 'This season we traveled to Burnt Hills twice and Queensbury to prep us for postseason play. Anytime you can scrimmage or play against a Section II team, it will bring the level of your team up. The girls are ready, their intensity is at an all-time high and they look forward to a long competitive game against Johnstown."
Like Johnstown last year, Beekmantown is making its second long bus trip of the week, having travel to Massena where it defeated Franklin Academy 3-0 in the regional semifinals by scores of 25-17, 25-14 and 25-13 on Wednesday.
"Being in Section VII, we are used to the travel, as for some league games we travel an hour and a half on a school night," Hileman said. "We are not concerned about the travel and I do not draw attention to it."
In the regional semifinals, Jordynne Hales had 23 digs, six servive points and two aces for the Eagles, while Michaela Lafountain posted 31 assists, 15 service points, six aces and three digs. Shannon Ryan added 13 kills, eight digs and three service points for Beekmantown.
"Our libero, Jordynne Ales, has had her best games recently and this has allowed us to dominate in transition, we hope this continues," Hileman said.
Beekmantown won its fourth straight Section VII Class B title last Saturday 3-0 by scores of 25-10, 25-9 and 25-8. Since moving to the fall season in 2010, the Eagles have won all four Class B crowns. However, Beekmantown has yet to reach the state semifinals, having lost to Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk in the 2010 regionals.
Lafountain had 29 assists and 20 service points for Beekmantown against Peru, while Grace Kelly posted 14 kills. Hunter Gates added seven kills and six digs for the Eagles, while Ales posted 17 digs and 11 service points. Ryan finished with 10 service points, seven kills and four aces for the Eagles.
"In the last two weeks we have really focused on blocking and digging outside hitters," Hileman said "[Johnstown's] Annie Stock is an excellent, powerful, consistent, smart all around player. You can't fully stop a player like that, but if we can put up a solid block to try and slow down her hits we have a good chance to defensively dig her and use our offense."
While Beekmantown was cruising to its fourth straight sectional title and a first-round regional win, Johnstown outlasted Gloversville in five sets at Stillwater High School last Saturday to win its third straight Section II Class B crown.
The Lady Bills won by scores of 25-19, 25-19, 28-30, 13-25 and 26-24.
Stock led Johnstown with 24 kills, 17 digs, 13 service points, one ace and a block, while Jerica Holland had 19 assists, 10 kills, three digs and four aces. Morgan Catania registered 25 assists, 10 digs and 10 points for Johnstown (16-1 overall), while Alyssa Nellis had 13 blocks, seven kills, 15 digs and eight points. Hannah Breda contributed eight kills and four blocks for the Lady Bills, Brianne O'Rourke finished with five kills and eight blocks, Kaitlyn Duesler had 14 digs, 10 points and four kills, and Madison Smrtic added 16 digs.
The winner of today's match advances to the state Class B semifinals next weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
"We are staying focused and working on the basics," McGuire said. "Tough offense, and tougher defense."