JOHNSTOWN - In 2011, Section X champion Massena made a six-hour trek to Gloversville to face Johnstown in the opening round of regional volleyball play. It was not a good day for the Lady Raiders as they were stuck behind a slow moving construction vehicle before arriving in Gloversville when they should have been on the court. The result was a sweep by the Lady Bills en route to a state Class B Final Four appearance at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
This time it is Johnstown that will make the trek north as it heads to the State University of New York at Canton for a rematch of last year's regional semifinal.
"I know we will be going into the game playing our hardest because we really want this," sophomore outside hitter Annie Stock said. "I know they are pretty good and we are not looking past them at all. They are champions also and we know we will have to play our 'A' game."
Massena has built momentum heading into today's match. Thursday, the Lady Raiders played in the Section X overall championships at SUNY Canton and swept Salmon River in their opening round match before knocking off previously unbeaten, perennial Class D powerhouse Chateaugay in straight sets.
The Lady Bills also have been on a roll, sweeping Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and Schalmont for their second-straight Section II Class B championship before knocking Beekmantown (Section VII) from the unbeaten ranks in four games Tuesday at AuSable Valley High School.
"We are more excited now than we were against Beekmantown because we are closer to our goal," senior captain Zara Hyde said. "We are approaching this game the same as we did last year and looking for a win because I, and everyone else, want to go back to states. I think we have a lot of talent on the team, even more than last year. We don't want to come in last [in pool play] this season."
What: New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B Regionals
When: Today, 4 p.m.
Where: SUNY Canton
The matchup: Section II champion Johnstown (17-3) vs. Section X champion Massena (15-3)
Note: Johnstown defeated Beekmantown, 3-1, in the regional semifinals Tuesday. Massena swept Franklin Academy on Tuesday to win the Section X title.
The Lady Raiders also have improved and will be looking to Northern Athletic Conference East Division MVP Janisa Benedict and Tristan Thomas to spark their efforts today.
Benedict registered 25 kills through both matches Thursday, while Thomas came through with a combined 36 assists on 95 sets and Krista Loran was the most prolific server, recording 21 service points on the day.
In Johnstown's last two games, Stock has nailed down 38 kills and 34 digs, while Hyde has 45 assists, 17 kills and has served up nine aces. Sophomore Hannah Breda has stepped up her game to record 21 kills and has teamed with Bri O'Rourke and Alyssa Nellis to be a force at the net in blocking situations.
Stock said one of the reasons for the Lady Bills' success and team unity this season has been the five-second rule.
"Everyone only has five seconds to get down on themselves if they make a mistake," she said. "Then after those five seconds you forget about that point and move on to the next. I think that brings us together too. After those five seconds, everyone is happy and fine and ready to move on to the next point. It definitely feels like we are a family out there."
That was evident in Tuesday's match against Beekmantown. Stock successfully dove for a dig and Jerica Holland tripped over Stock as she went for the bumped ball. The ball fell for a point in the crucial third game of the match, but both players got up, looked at each other and laughed. Next play, Holland set Stock up for a kill.
"I think we have come together as a team on and off the court and that really helps us," Stock said. "We first have to get past [today]. If we do that, I think we are ready [for states] and will do better than last year."