LEWISBORO — Tradition is not forgotten in two years. Not if it’s tradition worth remembering. Not if teenagers continue to cry about it and fight for it and refuse to let it go.
For 11 years, the Hen Hud girls volleyball program won sectional titles as if they were a birthright. Eleven in a row, one right after the other, until a semifinal loss in 2011. Then another loss in 2012.
On Saturday, the tradition was back.
Hen Hud won its first sectional title since 2010 with a 25-21, 19-25, 25-16, 25-20 win against top-seeded Ardsley in the Class B final, bringing redemption for a group of seniors who remember all too well what it felt like to lose.
“Ever since we were little, we always had the dream of going to states keeping up such a great name for our program,” Sailors senior Kendal Kristiansen said. “When we lost, everything just kind of fell apart, but we understood that by senior year, we had to get the title back again.”
The third game was the turning point. Hen Hud had been outplayed in the second, making uncharacteristic errors that opened the door for Ardsley’s athletic and powerful hitters.
“It was just dumb,” Sailors coach Diane Swertfager said. “We were doing dumb things. I said to them, ‘That’s just not smart volleyball. What could we do that we’ve taught you that’s smart?’”
Better passing. Better serving. A seven-point run to give Hen Hud a 19-12 lead, and when Ardsley ended that run with an emphatic Nicolina Chenard kill, Hen Hud responded with an emphatic kill of its own, this one from Gillian Stieglitz.
“Once they cleaned up their hitting mistakes, then it became difficult for us again,” Ardsley coach Dave Ponterio said.
Hen Hud jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the fourth, and after Ardsley fought back to within 21-20, the Sailors finished the match with fourth straight points, ending it with a decisive block to advance to regional competition.
“I just remember the looks on the seniors faces when we lost to Pelham our sophomore year and how upset they were,” Hen Hud senior Gabby Kempski said. “That has haunted me my entire career. … We didn’t win this just for ourselves this year. We won it for last year (and) for the year before.”
Stieglitz and Morgan Loh had 15 kills apiece for the Sailors. Kristiansen had 14 kills, Emily Barthelmes had 54 assists, and Kempski and Lindsay Pelaccio had 26 and 23 digs respectively. For Ardsley, Hayley Kemtz had 20 kills — many of them simply overpowering — while Megan Canfield had 29 assists and Casey Foley had 21 digs.
In the end, though, Hen Hud was simply too consistent, winning a championship worthy of those that came before.
“It’s more than just the team that’s currently playing,” Kempski said. “We want to win for the teams in the past. We want to make our big sisters proud, fill their shoes, and set a precedent for the teams in the future to be like, ‘I want to play volleyball, because I want to be like those girls.’”
Written by: Chad Jennings/The Journal News
Here is Carucha’s video recap: