FALCONER - Following his team's straight sets defeat at the hands of Ellicottville, first-year Portville coach Tim Hinman didn't mince words.
"Ellicottville," he said, "is good."
Ellicottville’s Janae Hamilton leaps high for a spike during the Lady Eagles’ victory over Portville at the Falconer Spikefest on Saturday. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Against some of the top volleyball competition in the area, the Lady Eagles, who reached the Section 6 Class D finals last season before falling to eventual state runnerup Randolph, went a perfect 7-0 in pool play - the squad never even lost a set - and then topped Gowanda in the quarterfinals, Chautauqua Lake in the semifinals and, in the final, the aforementioned Portville Lady Panthers, 25-13 and 25-17, to capture the 2012 Falconer Spikefest title on Saturday.
A total of 15 teams took part in the tournament.
And if history is any indication, the victory is a sign of big things to come for the Lady Eagles going forward this season. Each of the past three winners of the Falconer Spikefest have gone on to win at least a Section 6 title.
According to coach Kelly Unverdorben, this was just the first step towards that bigger goal.
"We've already put a lot of hard work into this season," she said. "We started at the beginning of the year, played in some leagues, went to some team camps and really just busted our butts.
"They know what they want, they've been together a long time and they're hungry (to win a sectional title)."
If they play the way they did on Saturday, they may just get that opportunity.
With a strong outside hitter in Janae Hamilton, a tall middle blocker in tournament Most Valuable Player Courtney Scanlon and a young, athletic setter in Marissa Hamilton, Ellicottville's strength at and around the net gave them the mental edge early and helped it get out to a quick lead against the Lady Panthers, 5-0.
Following a Portville timeout, Ellicottville continued to increase the lead thanks to the well-placed serving of Scanlon, who had a pair of aces, pushing its advantage to 13-5 before Hinman called yet another timeout to calm his troops.
"(Ellicottville) is big," he said, "and you can't teach height. When you've got to burn two timeouts within the first 13 points to calm them down, I think maybe we were a little intimidated."
Even with the timeouts, however, Portville could do little to counteract the powerful play of the Lady Eagles' front line. Scanlon recorded three more kills, and then later blocked a pair of Portville spikes during a single rally to help her squad pull ahead by nine, 22-13, and then Janae Hamilton drilled consecutive kills, each of them through blocks, to clinch the first game.
"Courtney did an amazing job today," Unverdorben said. "Wow. She has a lot of experience, and she did everything I asked of her and then some."
Perhaps due to fatigue - the two teams had been playing since 10 a.m., after all - the unforced errors began to mount in the final game. With both squads firing serves either long or short and into the net, they traded points for much of the game. It wasn't until that young setter, eighth-grader Marissa Hamilton, hit a dink to snap a 16-16 tie to put Ellicottville ahead for good. They tallied seven of the next 10 points to secure the title.
Unverdorben was glad to see her youngest player come up with the big play.
"I brought this eighth-grader in at setter, the little Hamilton, and she did a phenomenal job," she said. "I had a lot of confidence in her because she's an athlete. Even though she is young and it was a risk, I took it and went with it and I'm glad I did."
NOTES: In addition to Scanlon being named tournament MVP, McKenna Maycock (Randolph), Jenna Einink (Chautauqua Lake), Justine Zink (Portville), Shannon Gunnell (Falconer) and CJ Sawatis (Gowanda) were all-tournament selections.
SILVER CREEK - Sara Crandall had 16 kills, four aces and three digs and Kaitlyn Nye 18 assists and six aces as Cattaraugus-Little Valley (2-0, 2-2) prevailed over Silver Creek (0-2), 25-18, 25-14, 25-22, in Division 2 volleyball on Friday.
Shelley Bach accounted for five kills and two aces in the win.
Jordan Brooks recorded two kills and four blocks while Allison Hartford four kills, four digs and six aces in defeat.
Cattaraugus-Little Valley was victorious in the junior varsity match.