DEWITT — Two out of three wasn’t bad for Frontier League teams in the Section 3 volleyball finals Saturday at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
Beaver River and Sandy Creek both overcame slow starts to win the Class C and D titles, respectively. Carthage (19-1) couldn’t get anything going in the Class A final as it suffered its only loss of the season in a 26-24, 25-23, 25-14 sweep to Cortland.
The titles are the first for the league since Sandy Creek last won the Class C title in 2018. It was the second straight loss in a sectional final for Carthage while Sandy Creek bounced back from losing the Class C final to Mount Markham in 2019.
BEAVER RIVER 3, ONONDAGA 2
Chelsea Greenwood finished with 26 kills and seven digs as the top-seeded Beavers rallied past the No. 2 Tigers 24-26, 25-16, 19-25, 25-22, 25-9 to claim coach Gene Sundberg’s eighth sectional title in his 35 years at the helm.
“It’s really sweet because as I’ve gotten older, they’ve been harder to get,” Sundberg said. “The section has gotten better and it’s a just a bigger grind.”
Natalie Monnat added 42 assists while Makenna Boliver supplied 25 service points, 19 digs and 18 kills for Beaver River (16-1) as its senior group was able to get its hands on the title.
Beaver River did not look like a top seed early as it struggled and Onondaga (18-4) took advantage of mistakes. Nerves and some unforced errors put the Beavers down early.
“We knew it wasn’t our best beginning,” Monnat said. “We missed a lot of serves and we were just off, but between every game and every set we just told ourselves this was our last game together and we just pushed and picked each other up.”
The Beavers claimed the second set after going to Greenwood often in the frame, but the Tigers used a big run to take the third set and put the top seed on the verge of elimination. But hitters like Greenwood and Emma Dicob were able to find lanes in a stingy Onondaga defense to win the fourth set.
“I just aim for whatever spot is open and rely on my teammates to set me up with a good pass,” Greenwood said.
Beaver River then got off to a fast start in the fifth to find some separation in the early part of the set.
“We said first to five in the last game,” Sundberg said. “We chunked it up, first to five, first to 10 and first to 13 (and the change of sides).”
The Beavers then powered through the rest of the deciding set against a Tigers team that couldn’t stop two extended runs.
“I knew when they called the second timeout that it would be hard for them to come back,” Monnat said. “Even when they called, we knew we were in their heads.”
The victory also gives Sundberg his first win at the Jamesville-DeWitt gym. Sundberg hadn’t won in all previous attempts at that building.
“I’ve lost a semifinal one year when we were outgunned by a really good LaFayette team and lost one when we were up 2-1 to Onondaga,” Sundberg said.
SANDY CREEK 3, MORRISVILLE-EATON 1
Sarah Balcom totaled 18 digs, eight kills and five blocks while Hailey Miller added 11 service points, nine kills and nine digs as the Comets took down the Warriors, 23-25, 25-13, 25-21, 25-14. Deanna Hathway added 15 digs, eight service points, five assists and four aces while Maddy Lamica provided 10 kills, four aces and two blocks for the Comets.
Kendra Waltz posted 14 kills, seven digs and four assists while Ariana Hilliard logged 23 assists for the Warriors (17-3).
Sandy Creek stumbled at the start against top-seeded Morrisville-Eaton and faced an early deficit before making a late run at the end of the set. Sandy Creek knew it could have won the set had it got off the blocks quicker.
“They started playing their best game when they were down 10 points,” Sandy Creek head coach Dorianne Hathway said. “Even playing at our worst, we were still close.”
Morrisville-Eaton boasts one of the taller groups of hitters in Class D, which would normally hamper Sandy Creek’s strong middle attack, However, the Comets were able to speed the game up and hit around their players. The Comets gave different looks to keep the Warriors off balance.
“We were just trying to move the ball around a lot and give them something that they haven’t really seen before,” Balcom said.
Sandy Creek also used ball movement and would have multiple players finish off points. The net play of Miller and Balcom with slower tip shots also prevented Morrisville-Eaton from blocking opposition kills and using its power game.
“We just know where to put the ball,” Deanna Hathway said. “If there’s two middle blockers up against you, we just got to know to cut it over and cut it around them like we work on in practice every day.
As the Frontier League’s only Class D volleyball school, Sandy Creek always faces bigger schools with deep rosters and bigger players. However, that prepared them for the sectional final.
“It helps to play against bigger players and it helped us mentally to play strong people,” Dorianne Hathway said.
The Comets won the sectional crown with a relatively young team that will only lose one senior. Deanna Hathway is excited that the Comets have a chance to be in this position again next season.
“It’s the plan to be back here next year,” Miller said.
CORTLAND 3, CARTHAGE 0
The Comets had trouble getting any rhythm going against the second-seeded Purple Tigers (20-1). Carthage seemed thrown off at times against Cortland’s serve.
“I think part of was their deep serves,” Carthage head coach Angie Robbins said. “For some reason our back row was having a hard time on the serve received and if we can’t pass the ball, then we can’t run our offense.”
Kayci Olson anchored the Cortland offense with 17 kills and Grace Call dished out 28 assists. Mikenzie Martens collected 10 digs, 10 service points and seven digs while Caroline Culbreth added six kills for Carthage.
Cortland knew how to deal with the Comets’ vaunted 5-1 offensive set from past matches with teams in the Onondaga High School League. Purple Tigers head coach Cheri Olson drilled home that past experience in practice throughout the week.
“Carthage plays middle-up defense, which our rival Chittenango in our league plays, so we’ve been preparing for that and hammering that at practice,” Olson said.
Carthage did a lot to reach Saturday’s final as it rallied from two sets down on Tuesday to top fourth-seeded New Hartford in the semifinal. The Comets got down big in the final set against Cortland, but rattled off eight points before the Purple Tigers finished the game.
“It’s the Carthage tradition where we do not give up,” Robbins said. “We will do whatever we can to win.”