BARDONIA — Beth McDonough has never won a Super Bowl, but if she did, the senior setter said it would probably feel like the aftermath of a thrilling 25-23, 11-25, 25-15, 16-25, 25-21 win over Albertus Magnus.
“Insane. There’s no other word for it,” McDonough said. “That was the biggest adrenaline rush. … I’m speechless.”
In a back-and-forth contest, the Suffern senior was assigned the tall task of facing the Rockland juggernaut on the road, while filling in for injured junior setter Julia Hrycyk (right), who is nursing a hip flexor injury.
McDonough did more than her share Monday afternoon, tallying 33 assists and restoring order to a sometimes shaky Mounties offense.
“We were talking that if we lost this game, it wouldn’t be because of Beth,” Suffern coach Sean Barnes said. “We miss Julia, but at the same time, we didn’t think Beth did anything that was really going to cost us the game. She did a phenomenal job.”
Barnes said that Hrycyk was medically cleared this week, but will need to catch up in her mandatory practices before playing in a match.
Between breaking in a new setter, playing without two of its top players and playing on the road against another top Rockland team, Suffern had plenty on its plate against Class C contender Albertus Magnus.
The Mounties showed the kind of quick adjustments, teamwork, coaching and mental stability that gets you to seven consecutive Class AA section finals, a feat the Mounties accomplished until a semifinal loss to John Jay-East Fishkill snapped the streak last year.
Even without a full squad to start the season, the Mounties look like, and think they have every intention of going further than just the section final this year.
“I’m confident that we’re going to go to states this year,” said senior Katie Conway, whose clutch serving in the final game helped secure the win.
Albertus Magnus’ Mallary McFadden led all players with 21 kills, to go with 15 digs. Heather Durkin added six kills and eight blocks for the Falcons.
Here’s my video recap of the match, which picks up from a 20-20 tie in the fifth and final set:
Here are some of my thoughts on the match, along with some extra quotes from Barnes, McDonough and Conway:
Despite not playing up-to-par in the first game, Albertus Magnus hung around. The Falcons didn’t take their first lead until breaking an 11-11 tie, but then they took flight. Magnus jumped out to a 19-14 lead before Suffern starting mounting a comeback, pulling within one, and forcing Magnus coach Valerie McFadden to call a timeout clinging to a 20-19 lead. The hosts even led 23-22 before Suffern ran off the final three points of the game. The Falcons couldn’t really establish a solid setting game to start, which likely led to the early struggles. Once they started getting in rhythm, things started falling into place. Have to give credit to Suffern for never giving up; a trait it showed throughout the match.
Barnes: “It’s a good win. I’m proud of the girls for showing a little guts, fighting back — a lot of grit; but they had spurts where it was like, ‘Ok, there they are!’ … It was a great win — a good confidence builder; good to go back to work off a win, as opposed to a loss, and (Magnus) beating us last year did resonate with (Suffern) a little bit, so they came in with an idea of what they wanted to do and knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I wish we would’ve played better in Games 2 and 4 when we got behind, but I’m proud of the way they finished off Game 5.
Suffern never felt comfortable on the left side of the court; neither team did, really, but it was obvious that Suffern definitely struggled the most out of the two. I’ve covered dozens of volleyball games in my life, and I guess you can even include basketball in this mix, but I’ve never seen one side of the court be such a factor in a game or match.
Whoever was on the left side, had control. From the bleachers, I thought the left side was much-more lit, therefore easier to play on, compared to the dimly-lit right side of the court. Needless to say, I was pleased to hear that coach Barnes also thought the same thing, allowing me to retain my sanity for the night.
“We were talking about that,” he said as he looked at his assistant, who said she thought the same thing. When I mentioned that I thought the better lighting played a factor, Barnes responded, “That’s exactly what I said.” His tone sounded like he was also glad someone else was on the same wavelength.
In the most ridiculous stat of the night, here’s the breakdown of points:
— When Albertus Magnus was on the left side of the court, it outscored Suffern 63-38, including the first half of the fifth game. When Suffern was on the left side of the court, it outscored Albertus Magnus 66-45, including the second half of the fifth set. For those of you, like myself, who are a little mathematically-challeneged, that’s 129 points scored on that side of the court as opposed to just 83 on the other side, which comes to more than 60 percent of the total points scored.
— Another interesting stat is that Albertus Magnus actually outscored Suffern overall, 109-102. A dominating second game, in which the Falcons won 25-11, helped attribute to that, but still. While I’ve seen it before, it is rare for team’s to score more total points, but still lose the match.
I said going into the match that these were two very evenly-matched teams, hence why I projected a five-game match. It really wouldn’t have surprised me if either team won this. It’s hard to knock the Falcons for this loss; Suffern is a great team with nearly 750 more students in the school. The fact that Albertus Magnus did everything to put itself in position to win this match only proves just how strong and dominant of a Class C team it is. Losses like this are going to sting now, but when the weaker competition in the section tournament rolls around, the Falcons will be glad they are in a county populated with several prominent Class AA schools.
I believe that how a team performs when its down says a lot about them; and that goes for anything — from high school, to college, to professionals. For Suffern, a team that was down 19-14 in Game 1, lost 25-11 in Game 2, lost 25-16 in Game 4, and trailed 17-13 in Game 5, to win this match is enormous for the team’s confidence. Not to mention it was against a team that beat them in five sets last year, or that it was on their court.
Suffern is strong now, and will only get stronger once Hrycyk and Cohen are back in the lineup. Getting a win like this to start their season is big in so many ways for the Mounties, and the team knows it.
Conway: “It huge for our confidence. … I think it was really good to go out this year and prove that we can beat (Albertus Magnus) and that we’re a stronger team, and I think the five games made it a lot more exciting.”
McDonough: “This is a huge confidence boost. We want to go far this year, and we are because of this win.”
I’d say that’s a pretty good note to end on.
Featured photo credit: Albertus Magnus High School
Hyrcyk photo credit: Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News