Whether the feeling was familiar, like it was at Westhill, or quite fresh, as it was at West Genesee, both programs hoped their respective Section III girls volleyball championships were only the first step to something bigger.
The Warriors, with the recent example of state championships won in 2018 and 2019 and a final four appearance in 2022, looked to go their again, needing two wins in the Class B regional playoffs to pull it off – and doing so without dropping a set.
Facing Section X’s Ogdensburg Free Academy in the regional opener Wednesday at Massena High School, Westhill didn’t let the long trip bother them, easily prevailing in a three-set sweep.
The 25-5, 25-14, 25-11 margin allowed Westhill to get its entire roster on the floor for at least two different sets, with Ava Baty and Alice Bender setting the dominant tone, each of them recording seven aces.
Baty also gained 20 assists and nine digs as Bender led the defense with 15 digs. On a well-balanced front line, Sofia Dimovski and Jocelyn Caputo led with six kills apiece, Eva Tarolli adding five kills and Brynn Schneider getting four kills. Sydney Medeiros had five digs, Sophia Johnson and Lucy DeMore earning four digs apiece.
Now it was the Warriors against Broadalbin-Perth, from Section II, in the regional final Saturday at Lake George High School, but once again Westhill proved too good.
After rolling through the first set 25-10, the Warriors were challenged hard in the second set, but withstood the set points and took it 27-25, going on to win the third 25-17 and secure its state final four berth.
Dimovski had 10 kills, seven digs and three aces, with Tarolli getting nine kills and four blocks. Schneider and Lancette had eight kills apiece as Caputo got five kills and three blocks. Baty managed 34 assists and 13 digs and Bender earned 22 digs.
In many ways, West Genesee had achieved something big just by earning the sectional Class AA title on Nov. 4 at Jamesville-DeWitt, sweeping Fayetteville-Manlius in three sets.
Now, after a week to practice and prepare, WG would challenge Section II’s Columbia in Saturday’s regional final at Stillwater High School, hoping it avoided the fate of the girls soccer Wildcats who lost to the Blue Devils in their regional match.
That’s exactly what the Wildcats did, and the first set proved crucial. Columbia had a great chance to go out in front, but once WG won that set 25-23, it seemed to draw energy and confidence that carried over the rest of the way.
A 25-13 second-set romp followed, and when it won the third set 25-16, the Wildcats had, for the first time, earned a trip to state championship weekend, and again had many different players it could thank.
Claire DeVore earned five blocks to go with four kills, with Cami Zajac getting a team-best six kills. Lillianna Iacampo and Alaina Dudzinski both got three kills, Dudzinski adding three blocks as Coleeen Barry earned nine digs. Sonya Dunham gained 10 assists and Sidney Hamilton added nine assists.
Now it’s on to Glens Falls’ Cool Insuring Arena, where next Saturday at 10:15 a.m. WG will face Long Island champion Long Beach in the state AA semifinal, the winner to get Webster Schroeder or Cornwall in next Sunday’s 9 a.m. final.
Westhill, seeking a third state title, meets Center Moriches, from Long Island, next Saturday at 2:45. A win gets the Warriors into the state Class B final next Sunday at 11:30 a.m. against Lansing or Southwestern.