PELHAM MANOR — Aside from the annual Section 1 volleyball tournament the seemingly inevitable matchup between Hen Hud and Pelham has become a traditional in and of itself.
Since the Sailors dropped down to Class B six years ago, the two have met in every section tournament, although none were outside of the semifinals until Tuesday.
Slapped with its lowest seed in nearly a quarter-century, 10th-seeded Hen Hud stunned the two-time defending Class B section and regional champions, 21-25, 25-10, 25-20, 25-20, on their home court, a feat that only two other teams have accomplished in the last four years.
Prior to the match, Sailors coach Diane Swertfager said that her team receiving a 10-seed despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the section was “ridiculous,” and that “something needs to be done” in addressing the power league format.
“This should have been a semifinal match, in all fairness to Pelham and myself,” said an “elated” Swertfager after the match. “The kids put everything that we instructed them to do together, which we haven’t been doing in the past. They’re peaking at the right time, which is great news for us and bad news for everybody else.”
Before the match, Swertfager said the X-factor for Hen Hud (9-9) to pull off the upset against the second-seeded Pelicans (12-5) would be tough serving. The Sailors, who will travel to No. 3 Byram Hills for Thursday’s semifinal, finished with 21 aces.
In the biggest match of the season for either team, it was the smallest person on the court who did the majority of the damage.
Sophomore Lindsay Pelaccio, who stands at all of 5-foot-2 and checks-in at a feathery 95 pounds, recorded seven of the team’s 21 aces and dug up 16 balls in an outstanding defensive effort.
“In the beginning, I had nerves because I’m kind of young for being on the varsity, but my team really supported me and we all are really comfortable with each other that something just clicked,” said Pelaccio, whose two older sisters went through the Sailors program and are now at Oneonta. “After losing the past two years, then winning this one, we really got pumped up and realized that we have a lot of potential that was fulfilled.”
Seniors Kendal Kristiansen and Gabby Kempski each recorded a team-high 12 kills for the Sailors, who have made a section final in 16 of the last 18 seasons. Kempski, who tore her ACL last year, added 12 digs in the win.
After the game, Pelham coach Mark Finegan had a special message for his nine seniors:
“Thank you,” he said. “They’ve been a great group, and I appreciate their effort. You know, Megan Krause has gone to two (state) final fours — she’s had a great career — she’s won a Con Ed (Scholar-Athlete of the Week award).”
Krause finished with eight kills in her swan song. Fellow senior Nicole Franciosa added 13 kills and 15 digs for the Pelicans. Drue Robertson chipped in 33 assists and 13 digs in her finale.
“It’s tough to go out, ever, it’s tough to go out on your home court, it’s tough to go out against a 10-seed in a quarterfinal when you know you’re not playing a real quarterfinal match — it’s tough, it’s very tough,” Finegan said.
Here’s my video recap:
Photo credit: Mike Zacchio/The Journal News