GLENS FALLS, NY (NEWS10) — What a weekend to be a Plainsmen volleyball player. On the heels of the Shenendehowa boys team winning its’ first-ever state title, the Shen girls squad had an opportunity to accomplish that same feat Sunday afternoon against Lancaster out of Section VI.
Lori Kessler’s bunch rolled to the championship match after posting a 5-1 mark in Saturday’s pool play. Two of those victories came against the Legends, and Shen carried that momentum into Sunday’s rematch.
The first set was tight-knit. Junior libero Kasia Barletta was serving for game point with her team up 24-23. Barletta would come up from her service position and make a lunging save to keep the point alive. That allowed senior hitter Destiny Snyder to get off a spike attempt, and she delivered. Her strike was blocked, but the ball landed out of bounds, and Shen took the opening frame 25-23.
They cruised right through to the second set. Already up 20-13, senior Sabrina Kinkaid added to that lead with a kill off a set from senior setter Emma Paliwodzinski. The Plainsmen would go on to win that set 25-17.
Kinkaid would serve for the match point in the third set – Shen maintained a 24-15 edge in the game – and the point ended exactly how a championship-winning point should end…with plenty of action.
The Legends got a look at a kill off the serve, but Kinkaid dug out the shot. That led to a Genny Sala approach; Lancaster was in position to play the smash, but a Legend player sent the ball right back over to the Plainsmen off just one touch. Senior Grace Almeida would sky for her spike attempt, and she didn’t miss, driving home the game and match-clinching point.
Shen not only claimed its’ first-ever state title, but the Plainsmen did it in dominating fashion, winning in straight sets. Coach Kessler believes the achievement was a culmination of an unrelenting work ethic from her players.
“It’s been a lot of years of hard work, and especially for this season, a lot of hard work,” said Kessler. “So, I was really hoping that they could push it through. It’s been our motto since day one: “Make it to the end, and make it to this moment.” So, definitely tears of joy. It makes it all worth it – all the hard work.”
Paliwodzinski said that in the wake of her team’s pool-play performance, the whole squad felt confident in their ability to bring home the title.
“I think we all knew that we…we were one of the best teams coming to this tournament,” said Paliwodzinski. “We played like it yesterday, and I think that set the tone for today. And we’re all so confident in our skills, and I think it just showed today.”
Almeida described what it meant to not only win the program’s first state championship, but do it in her senior year, and share the accomplishment with the boys team.
“It’s the final mark I wanted to make,” said Almeida. “I’m very happy taking away this moment as (my) final mark on…Shen volleyball. And setting program history for the boys and the girls is amazing. Walking into school on Monday is gonna feel great.”