Since the Section 1 tournament field is whittling down, I decided to do previews for each match on Wednesday’s slate.
Well, as Zac Brown said, let’s jump right in:
CLASS A SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS
No. 5 Ossining at No. 1 Yorktown: For the second straight year under Lauren Riccardi, the Pride find themselves in the Class A semifinals and one match away from a title shot. After what I thought would be somewhat of a rebuilding year, Ossining (pictured below) put together 17 wins so far this season after two playoff wins in the last week. Yorktown (17-1) has been dominant pretty much all season, with its only loss coming to John Jay-East Fishkill. The Huskers are riding a 12-match win streak heading into Wednesday’s contest at The Crop, one of the most hostile volleyball environments for a visiting team. Katy Sherwood’s squad is incredibly deep, with interchangeable parts in her lineup top to bottom. Loaded with experienced club players, the Huskers have terrific chemistry, power and defense — all the makings of a championship squad. My prediction: The Huskers sweep the Pride and advance to their first section final in program history.
No. 3 Panas at No. 2 John Jay: Whether it is I or a co-worker, someone will be at this 4:30 p.m. match on Wednesday. Throughout the season, it wasn’t hard to tell that these two and Yorktown would be section contenders, leaving one holding the short stick in the form of an exit in the semifinals. Either one of these teams could win the section and make a run for Glens Falls, and I think both teams know that. Panas and John Jay split the season series with one another and fought for the league title and No. 2 seed up until the last match of the season. As the defending regional champions, Panas obviously has the experience factor in its favor, but this is still a very different squad from last year. The departures of Lauren Parri and Floriana Rraci left voids at outside hitter and and an even bigger hole at libero. Victoria Fletcher has done a terrific job filling Rraci’s shoes and Yvette Burcescu has made excellent strides as an eighth grader. Despite all of Panas’ offensive firepower, led by D-1 recruits Brigitte Burcescu and Shaina Campbell, the Panthers will be going up against one of the best defenses in the section. Indians libero Theresa Swertfager is arguably the best in the section at her position and Amanda Flayhan is a do-it-all dynamo at just 5-foot-3. Middle Molly Newcomb will be an excellent matchup with Campbell, and the rest of John Jay’s supporting cast should keep the Panther defense busy from all angles. My prediction: This one can go either way; if John Jay’s defense is on-point or Panas’ defense is inconsistent, the Indians have a great chance of taking this one home. This is the match for Fletcher and Swertfager to really shine. Panas seems to have hit a nice groove since working Campbell back into the lineup on regular basis, so I have the Panthers in five — just like last time. (Note: I picked wrong in the previous two meetings with these teams.)
CLASS C SEMIFINALS
No. 4 Pawling at No. 1 Dobbs Ferry: The storyline is obviously undefeated Dobbs Ferry looking to stay perfect and capture a section title. With a win Wednesday, the Eagles will record what is likely their first 20-win season in program history. Standing in their way will be Pawling, who clawed its way past Briarcliff in the quarterfinals, 25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 25-15. Bears coach Melissa Piccola tweeted that Briarcliff led 18-8 in the fourth game before falling in heartbreaking fashion, 25-23. Just based on the scores of the other games, it looks like the Bears lost any/all momentum after that game. My prediction: As scrappy as Pawling is, I don’t think Dobbs Ferry falls just yet. The Eagles will probably drop a game maybe two, but not the match. Eagles in four.
No. 3 Albertus Magnus at No. 2 Blind Brook: If they work out through the other classes, this year’s tournament would have some of the best 2-3 matchups in awhile. Both programs are seeking their first section title, meaning one of them will at least get a shot at it. Both played good, but not great schedules, with the Trojans amassing 17 wins during the regular season. The Falcons posted a 12-5 mark during the regular season before easily disposing of Hastings and Rye Neck in the postseason. Albertus Magnus relies heavily on hitter Mallary McFadden (pictured above, right) for its offense, as does Blind Brook in Lindsey Kim. The Trojans have an exceptional defense, which could be the deciding factor in this match. Albertus Magnus has shown the ability to hang with anyone for a Class C school, forcing Suffern to five games in the season opener. My prediction: This match will either go five, with a comfortable win in the finale or four close games. In any case, I think Blind Brook takes it with a more balanced attack and better overall defense.