ONONDAGA COUNTY – All season long, the Jamesville-DeWitt and Fayetteville-Manlius boys volleyball teams had not let anyone seriously threaten the notion that they would repeat as Section III champions.
The inevitable turned into reality last Saturday at East Syracuse Minoa for the Red Rams, who fended off Oswego for Division II honors, but not the Hornets, who saw Cicero-North Syracuse overcome all of the recent history of their rivalry to take back the Division I crown.
What proved true for J-D was that Oswego, whom it beat twice in four sets in the regular season, was a worthy opponent who, for long stretches of the final, played on even terms.
Where it differed, though, was that, in the pivotal moments of the first and seconds sets, the Buccaneers kept making enough bad serves that it could not catch up.
Breaking out of a 13-13 tie, the Rams went in front for good, and though Oswego got back within a point, 23-22, J-D earned the last two points to win 25-22.
Again the Rams went in front to stay in the middle of the second set and, again, saw the margin dip to 25-22 before it got the last two points to win 25-22. And when the Bucs took a 6-2 lead in the third, J-D turned up its power and, with a 13-5 run, all but settled it, going on to win the set 25-19 and the match.
Throughout the match, Tim Coopers ruled on the back line with 41 assists and six digs. Aaron Ko stepped up to lead the front line with 13 kills, Luke McQuaid adding 10 kills as Avery Kielbasinski got eight kills, Phoenix McBride six kills and Cam Moynihan five kills.
Back on Thursday night, the semifinal rounds took place. ESM looked to join J-D in the Division II title match, only to get upended by Oswego in a four-set battle.
After a 25-16 loss in the opening set, the Spartans pulled out a tight second set 26-24 to pull even. In each of the next two sets, ESM had chances, but the Buccaneers got the key points and won in equal 25-22 decisions.
Donovan Randall still managed 45 assists, three kills, two blocks and eight digs. Up front, Tyler Quarry had 20 kills, Ryan Sullivan adding 15 kills as Tommy Clonan had 16 digs and seven assists. Austin Betts got eight kills, Jacob McGuigan adding six kills and Jayce Domres five kills, but ESM’s season ended with an 11-7 record.
Meanwhile, the Rams were jumping on Living Word Academy 25-10 in the opening set, going on to sweep the Lions by scores of 25-16 and 25-19.
McQuaid, with his five aces, augmented his total of nine kills. Cooper got three aces to go with 26 assists as Kielbasinski and Moynihan had five kills apiece and McBride four kills to go with four blocks.
Up in Division I, F-M was efficient and consistent in its semifinal against no. 4 seed Baldwinsville, equaling its two sweeps of the Bees in the regular season by prevailing 25-17, 25-18, 25-14.
With one more chance to impress the home crowd, the Hornet got 27 assists and five blocks from Connor Sugar. Chris Cleary earned 11 kills, helped by six kills from Charles Addonizio, five kills from Charlie Schroder and four kills from Mike McAndrew.
All this led to the sectional final, where C-NS was waiting, remembering the five-set defeat it took to F-M in an epochal 2022 sectional final and two regular-season defeats to the Hornets.
Where this title match and last year’s was similar was the fact that C-NS got the jump, winning the first set 25-20, but it was in the second set that it all proved different.
Instead of a 34-32 marathon claimed by F-M that turned the 2022 final around, the Northstars fell behind by five points and then, patiently, worked its way back until it took the lead late and won that set 25-23.
The third set was just as close. Pushed to the brink, the Hornets got it to 24-24, only to have C-NS gain back the serve and finish off match point 26-24 to earn back the sectional crown.
Most of F-M’s front-line power came from Cleary (11 kills) and Addonizio (nine kills), with Schroder adding five kills as, for the second straight match, Sugar earned 27 assists. For C-NS, Jack Waite’s 35 assists led to 14 kills from Carter King, 11 kills from Luke Wieczorek and nine kills from Phillip Greer.