Following Chautauqua Lake's 25-9, 25-17, 25-21 loss to Ellicottville in the Section 6 Class D crossover championship game, Lady Thunderbirds coach Joanne Meadows and her team sat behind the bleachers for quite some time.
And when they arrived back onto the court, the Chautauqua Lake faithful were there to show their approval of a fine season.
"They were a little upset about losing," Meadows said. "I said, 'You have nothing to be upset about. We played them tight. We made them work for their points. We didn't roll over.' I was proud of them and the season they had. I thanked my seniors for being the leaders they were and the role model for my daughter who is a freshman. That's huge for me to be a (mother of a) freshman and have two players like Sydney Milliman and Hannah Rauh to look up to. I thanked them for the year."
Courtney Scanlon of Ellicottville goes on the attack against Chautauqua Lake blockers Hannah Rauh, left, and Jenna Einink, right, during Wednesday night’s Section 6 Class D crossover girls volleyball championship match at Jamestown Community College.
Photo by Lisa Monacelli
The Lady Eagles showed why they are undefeated this season and have only lost one game as they played near-flawless defense and an unpredictable attack game that kept the Lady Thunderbirds off balance.
"We usually do a nice job of finding holes on the floor and tipping smart and hitting well," Meadows said. "Ellicottville doesn't leave you a lot of holes to tip it. Their defense is phenomenal. To me, their blocking and defense is what makes them the team they are. They are just a very sound team, all the way around. They are great offensively and smart in what offenses they run. They are so fast and move so well defensively. We got better in every single game and we had to bust our butts for every single point we got today. Against Ellicottville, you work hard for every point you get."
Chautauqua Lake hung tough with Ellicottville in the first game as it trailed just 10-5. However, from there the Lady Eagles went on a 15-4 run for the early lead.
In the second game, the Lady Thunderbirds tightened their defense and jumped out early as they took a 13-8 lead. However, a tip and two blocks from Ellicottville's Janae Hamilton sparked the Lady Eagles to a 14-14 tie. From there, Ellicottville took advantage of some unforced errors by Chautauqua Lake to pull out the 25-17 win.
"They played aggressive defense and they hit the ball well at us," Ellicottville coach Kelly Unverdorben said. "Chautauqua Lake did a nice job tonight."
In the third game, Ellicottville never trailed, but never felt comfortable either as its largest lead was just six points, 14-8. Chautauqua Lake's Jenna Einink had consecutive spikes and then had back-to-back service points to help the Lady Thunderbirds pull within two at 16-14. Chautauqua Lake got within a point of a tie at 21-20 as Ellicottville had two straight uncharacteristic unforced errors. However, Ellicottville's Madison Szpaicher had three straight service points to put the game away and help the Lady Eagles advance to Saturday's Far West Regionals at Webster-Schroeder.
"Maddie is very aggressive," Unverdorben said. "She is a go-getter. She doesn't like to lose. She is all over the place and is a great server. She can serve anywhere."
Unverdorben was happy to get this win after watching her team fall to Randolph last year in the crossover game.
"My girls were definitely determined tonight to get past this," she said. "It's a very good feeling. I can't even explain it. It's great for the kids."
"Volleyball is such a momentum game," Meadows said. "To my kids' credit, I don't think they played deflated. It's easy to quit after a first game when you get beat as badly as we did in the first game, but we didn't. They came back and got better every single game. They didn't quit. They weren't done till the last point fell on the floor. They played their hardest the whole game. They can leave her saying they played the best they can play."
Szpaicher led Ellicottville with four aces and eight kills while Janae Hamilton had four aces, nine kills and three blocks. Courtney Scanlon added 15 kills, an ace and three blocks while Marissa Hamilton charted 22 assists.
Meadows, who has taken teams to the state finals in the past, feels Ellicottville has what it takes to bring home a state crown.
"I think our Class D is one of the strongest classes around," she said "Whoever won this game is going to have a real good chance at states. I said that to the kids before. This is almost a bigger step than whoever you play at states. I think Ellicottville has a great shot at winning it. If you lose to a state champion, that's not so bad. I think they are just a very well-rounded team."
Rauh led Chautauqua Lake with eight kills and five digs. Tara Hunt had 10 digs and 12 assists while Jenna Einink had nine kills and five digs in a losing effort.
"It's one thing if you're upset the way you play," Meadows said. "None of us were sad about the way we played tonight. To most of them, the bad thing is the season ended. They still want to have practice (today). The tough thing to them is ending the season on a loss. They have been so close all year."