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Falcons soar to Frontier League title

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South Lewis became first-time playoff champions to highlight a season of surprises and unpredictability in Frontier League volleyball.

Liz Egnew and Gabby Hartley generated 10 kills apiece to help power fourth-seeded South Lewis to victory over No. 2 Sandy Creek in the “C/D” Division final during the league championships Saturday at Case Middle School.

In the “A” Division, No. 2 Watertown upset top-seeded and defending champion Carthage after losing twice to the Comets during the season.

In the “B” Division, No. 1 South Jefferson defeated No. 2 Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, which advanced to the final for the first time since it joined the league in 2005.

SOUTH LEWIS 3, SANDY CREEK 0

Controlling unforced errors was key as the Falcons prevailed, 25-22, 25-10, 25-16.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream-come-true,” senior middle hitter Egnew said.

South Lewis, which lost twice to Sandy Creek during the season, advanced to the championship match by upsetting top-seeded Lowville during the semifinals. Lowville and Sandy Creek settled into a tie for the regular-season title.

“We’ve never gotten a banner before,” senior hitter Hartley said. “It’s awesome that it happened our senior year.”

This is the first time in league history there were co-champions in a division and a different team won the playoff title, according to volleyball official and former Watertown coach Mark Taylor.

“The girls are ecstatic,” South Lewis coach Ashley Gino said. “They are a picture-perfect team. There’s not one person that goes out there and wins by herself.”

Heather Bates accounted for 20 service points, six aces and three kills, while Chloe Stinebrickner supplied 23 assists. Jayne Strigle added seven digs for South Lewis (14-5 overall).

For Sandy Creek (14-4), Michaela Martin registered seven kills, two aces and nine points, and Kylee Martin contributed four kills, nine assists and six digs. Shania Darling added 10 digs for the Comets, whose regular-season title is their first since 1983, according to coach Dori Hathway.

WATERTOWN 3, CARTHAGE 1

Watertown coach Robin Boomhower had to do something. Her squad had the elements it needed to beat every league opponent it faced this season, but mental breakdowns were getting the best of them.

Prior to the semifinals, Boomhower distributed to each player a gray headband on which they each wrote “Carpe Diem,” which means “Seize the Day” in Latin. Even Boomhower sported the motivational accessory.

Either the headbands worked, or the girls were simply sick of losing, as Watertown secured the “A” Division crown after rallying to beat Carthage, 21-25, 26-24, 25-19, 25-23, in a thrilling finish.

“We’re all there physically, it’s just we make mental mistakes, and today we didn’t let it get to us,” Watertown setter Jenna Hibbard said.

The Cyclones (9-8) needed a victory in order to qualify for the Section 3 playoffs.

“We don’t have to go out being that team that didn’t make the sectionals,” Watertown middle hitter Nemesis Ruiz said. “And we got to finally beat Carthage. Now this will be the last thing everyone remembers.”

Ruiz generated 17 kills, while Hibbard supplied seven kills, two aces, 15 assists and six digs.

Stacia Wallace chipped in with seven kills, 18 service points, three aces and eight digs, and Olivia Heiler had seven assists and 11 points.

Watertown hitter Leah Rojas sprained her ankle during the second game but returned to finish with two kills and 13 digs.

Courtney Cunningham and Cassie Birth supplied the power for Carthage (13-4).

“They hit cross court every single time, and that was our big adjustment today,” Boomhower said. “My setters had to play a lot of defense.”

Cunningham recorded 15 kills, four aces and 18 digs, and Birth tallied six kills and 21 digs.

“Communication hurt us today,” Carthage coach Angie Robbins said. “Certainly we had our opportunities to finish a game and we came up short.”

Carly Sullivan supplied 16 assists, while Carly Sauter distributed 14 assists. They each served two aces.

SOUTH JEFFERSON 3, APW 0

Alex Mooney posted 12 service points, including three aces, as the Spartans won, 25-13, 25-20, 25-15.

South Jefferson lost both regular-season and tournament titles to Lowville a year ago.

“It feels good after missing the opportunity last season,” Mooney said. “It means we worked together. We knew APW would be coming back hungry for us.”

South Jefferson (13-3) beat APW (8-11) twice during the regular season.

“I don’t think we underestimated them at all, and I think our first game was very consistent,” South Jefferson coach Warren Denny said. “But then certainly they got some momentum after that.”

The Rebels managed to keep the second game much tighter.

“They challenged us a lot,” Denny said. “They’re an aggressive serving team. When we had our passing game and were able to control their serve, I thought we did a pretty good job of creating opportunities and taking advantage.”

Senior libero Megan Hanson came through for the Spartans despite straining her back on Friday.

“She was struggling,” Mooney said. “She didn’t know if she could play that well and be effective for us, but she did really well.”

Janessa Vaadi contributed 10 kills and three blocks, while Ellie Brooks handed out 15 assists. Katie Elmer provided five kills and three blocks for South Jefferson.

NOTES: Lowville played in the “C” Division this season due to lower enrollment at the school. It’s expected the Red Raiders will be back up to “B” next season, while APW is returning to the Onondaga High School League after this school year. … This was the first year since the 1996-97 season that Lowville hasn’t earned a berth in the championship match, according to Lowville coach Jim Rhodes. … It’s only the second time in Beaver River coach Gene Sundberg’s 28 years of coaching that the Beavers didn’t advance to the final.


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