For starters, Happy Halloween to all ye LoHud volleyball faithful — I can’t believe how quickly it sprung up on us, or me at least.
Here are my previews for the six semifinal matches we have going on around the area for the Section 1 tournament:
CLASS AA SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS
No. 4 Arlington at No. 1 John Jay-East Fishkill: It’s no surprise that these two out-of-area teams will meet in the semifinals; they’ve established themselves as two of the top programs in the section in recent years and just happen to be in the same class. This can be — or should I say, will have to be — the match for Arlington to realize its full potential. I said in the preseason that the Admirals looked like a contender, and now it’s time to prove it. The Patriots (pictured right, against Arlington) handily won the top seed after dropping just one regular-season contest all year and will have home-court advantage on Thursday. My prediction: Maybe it’s something about being in the postseason that kicks Arlington into gear, but I think the Admirals push this one to five, if not take it. John Jay has been on a roll, and it’s always nice playing on your own court. Patriots in five.
No. 3 Scarsdale at No. 2 Suffern: For those of you wondering or who did not see it on Twitter, this is where I will be on Thursday, staffing a crossover match between a team I expected big things from last year and one that I expected even bigger things from this year. Scarsdale has made the best of its season, winning 10 of its 14 regular-season matches and performing well in tournaments, but I simply think the Raiders are overmatched in this one. The Mounties are too tall and hungry to let another finals appearance slip through their fingers. Suffern made seven consecutive finals up until last year, so not only do many of the girls have the experience of being there, many also want to get that streak going again. Suffern met Arlington in the finals in I believe the last five years of its section-finals run, and John Jay-East Fishkill eliminated them last year, so matter who would face Suffern in the championship match, the Mounties will be waiting. My prediction: Suffern wins somewhat easily; I’m thinking Scarsdale sticks with the Mounties, playing them really, really tough for one game. Now, whether it wins that set or not, that’s a different story.
CLASS B SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS
No. 4 Lourdes at No. 1 Ardsley: I’ve always had Ardsley winning, but as the season progressed, I had Pelham knocking on its heels for top-dog ranks in Class B. When Pelicans coach Mark Finegan told me that the Panthers are “clearly” the favorites in the class, I kind of took that to the bank. I mean, Finegan has only coached Pelham to back-to-back state final fours. The Panthers (pictured right) made quick work of virtually everyone they faced this year, so I see no reason why they won’t do the same with Lourdes. My prediction: Ardsley stays undefeated, sweeping Lourdes to the finals.
No. 10 Hen Hud at No. 3 Byram Hills: I had neither team in my final, so any/all predictions made here are just for what the bracket gods have bestowed upon me for Thursday’s schedule. I told you all at the start of the tournament that Hen Hud’s 10-seed was an atrocious rank and that it could very well end up upsetting Pelham, which it wound up doing. Once more, the Sailors dominated Pelham. Almost every aspect of Hen Hud’s game was fine-tuned in the four-game win, proving that, in the long run, power leagues are a major help to your program. The Bobcats have been mowing along through the tournament, but unfortunately haven’t faced a solid team yet. Thanks to an upset in the first round, Byram Hills faced No. 11 Pearl River in the quarterfinals on Monday, so while it’s not the best set up for a semifinal, it’s still a win. Jared Christian has done a tremendous job with this team, and Thursday’s match will have all of the chips stacked in the Bobcats’ favor. For one, your home — massive plus in a section tournament, let alone a semifinal. Also working for Byram Hills — and I’m saying this as a compliment — people are used to Hen Hud winning; it’s almost expected. Even as a 10-seed, people may still expect the Sailors to trample over everyone just because they are the Sailors. A Byram Hills win can slam its mark on the map, while a loss — to some — could be a, “Well, at least they tried,” kind of a feeling. My prediction: Knowing how ridiculously hot Hen Hud is right now, mixed with every other motivation factor (low rank, will to get back to the finals, will to get back to winning sections, will to get back to Glens Falls, etc.), I think Hen Hud continues its run. Byram Hills has a lot of fight in it, and it will all depend on what kind of a match it displays. Pelham’s Achilles’ heel was its serve-receive; you can’t allow 21 aces to most teams — especially Hen Hud — and expect to win; you just can’t. I do think this one goes four, though, in favor of the Sailors. Anything different will all be contingent on how Byram Hills plays, plain and simple.
CLASS D SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS
No. 4 Hamilton at No. 1 Keio: Can I just start off by asking why we even have a semifinal for Class D? Speaking from my own personal feelings as a former bench-warming soccer player for a mediocre team and mediocre bowler on a powerhouse team, I would rather not make a tournament than face a team far superior than mine and risk humiliation. It’s awkward for all parties involved; the losing team doesn’t want to be embarrassed and the winning team doesn’t want to seem like bullies (well, one parent argues differently for this team). In soccer, you hate the 8-0 routs, and in bowling, it’s not fun to beat a team that you can mathematically beat if two of your bowlers didn’t show up. Anyway, this is a no-contest in favor of Keio. My prediction: Unicorns sweep, easily.
No. 3 Tuckahoe at No. 2 Haldane: The only interesting factor in this game will judging how long it takes Haldane to win. Maybe I’m mean for saying that, and maybe that’s some of the bitterness of having watched the Red Sox win the World Series talking, but it’s the truth. Haldane (pictured right) has no competition in this class and it is the poster child for why people always ask why teams are separated by class, and not skill. The Blue Devils, winners of the last 10 — that’s one for both thumbs — section titles in Class D, should have no problem adding No. 11 or returning to Glens Falls. The section tournament has merely become a formality at this point. My prediction: If I must make one, Haldane sweeps.
Because I don’t want to go to sleep bitter (it’s 2:30 a.m.), because it is Halloween, and because I want to give some of you a good laugh at my expense, here is a clip from the opening number 2009 RCC-TV Film Festival in which students (myself included) perform Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which is, in my opinion, the theme song of Halloween. The video was shot by Anthony Quintano, formerly of NBC. (Fun fact: If you spot me, that’s actual blood on my nose — it was bleeding right before we went on and during. I figured, if we were asked to look and act like zombies, why not go with it? No, I’m not telling you which one I am, and yes, I still know the choreography.)
John Jay-EF photo credit: Poughkeepsie Journal
Ardsley photo credit: Matthew Brown/The Journal News
Haldane photo credit: Seth Harrison/The Journal News
Video credit: Anthony Quintano/Quintano Media