ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) — After an undefeated, 25-0 season for the Shenendehowa boys volleyball team, the Plainsmen had a chance to do something Saturday afternoon the program has never done before…win a state title.
And Shen seized that opportunity, winning 3-1 against Section V foe Webster to capture the NYSPHSAA Division I state championship.
The day began with three teams competing in pool play – Shen, Webster, and Massapequa – and the two squads with the best records would advance to the finals. The Plainsmen won both sets against Massapequa, and split with Webster; their 3-1 mark was good enough to advance. So too was Webster’s 2-2 record.
The final showdown got off to an epic start. In the opening set, the two teams went back and forth until the Plainsmen held a 31-30 edge. Needing to win by two points, Shen senior Alex Bui was serving for set point. The Lakers had an opportunity to tie the game back up, but senior Evan Lukasiewicz’ spike attempt sailed long, and the first set belonged to the Plainsmen.
But the Lakers had an answer in the second set. Up 24-20, junior Jacob Grams delivered a punishing smash that snuck inside the back line, and the match was knotted back up at one set a piece.
The third frame was all Shen; already leading 15 points to seven, Bui dug out a Webster smash, and senior setter Ryan Connors lofted a well-placed set to junior hitter Bennett Wilson for a back-row kill, giving the Plainsmen a nine-point edge. They’d go on to take that set 25-12.
Shen reached match point in the fourth set, and they watched a serve from Grams float out of bounds, and the celebration began for the Plainsmen, as they completed the 3-1 win. The players and coaches rushed the court, and the emotion of such a monumental moment flooded the faces of the Plainsmen.
After coming up short in the 2019 state final, Shen head coach John Coletta spoke after the match about what allowed this year’s squad to get the job done.
“Something felt different this year,” said Coletta. “And we’ve been saying it for a couple of days now to the coaches, like, “Something’s different.” And, just…our team’s will to not give up…even when we’re down. When things are good, we give up some points, but then we come right back, and keep playing hard. They keep their focus the whole time.”
Senior Brendan Shields harkened back to his junior varsity days, and recalled witnessing the 2019 loss, which ignited a drive to avenge that senior class.
“We were on JV when Shen lost in 2019,” said Shields. “I remember being in the stands over there, and…I remember, like, our coaches saying, like, “You guys are going to be that team,” and I guess they were right. I don’t know; it’s just crazy.”
The Plainsmen finish the year with a remarkable, 26-0 record.