LAGRANGEVILLE — Hen Hud’s volleyball season came to an end in Arlington High School’s main gym for the second straight year, but it should have never happened.
Not the season-ending loss — that was to be expected somewhere along the line, although many believed it should have been much earlier than Saturday’s NYSPHSAA Class B regional championship.
The departure of a large, strong graduating class following last year’s section final loss to Pelham should have left the Sailors — one of the most dominating teams in Section 1 over the last decade and a half — in a rare state of having to rebuild their program.
That’s what “should have” happened.
Instead, the Sailors (11-10), who posted a losing record during the regular season, won four matches away from home to claim its 12th section title in 14 years, this time doing it as a 10-seed.
For the section’s Cinderella team, the clock didn’t strike at midnight, rather 5:16 p.m., after Section 4 champion Owego Free Academy swept the Sailors 25-21, 25-16, 25-17 to claim the regional crown.
“I was pleasantly surprised, but not too surprised because you could see the maturity in everything they were doing … seniors were leading, and they did what we asked them to do,” said an emotional Diane Swertfager, Hen Hud’s coach. “(Saturday) they found it difficult to do what we asked them to do.”
The undefeated Indians (20-0) were able to use their height and blocking to overwhelm the shorter Sailors en route to the region title.
“We went in there thinking we had a shot, and now it just’’ stinks, said Hen Hud senior Kendal Kristiansen (pictured above), who finished with four kills and three digs in her final high school game. “At least we got the section title back for our team. That’s just a such great feeling.”
When Swertfager goes “back to the drawing board” in the offseason, she’ll have a solid core waiting to return next year. Sophomores Gillian Stieglitz (who finished with a team-high 10 kills), Lindsay Pelaccio (pictured below) and Alicia Niebrzydowski head a very strong 2016 class.
For seniors like captain Gabby Kempski (pictured above, 9), Saturday’s loss will merely be just another part of what turned out to be the season that ‘‘should have’’ never been.
“It happens — someone is going to win and someone is going to lose; it happens. I’m proud of the team; we made it this far,” Kempski said. It stinks “that my high school career just ended, but I have so much ahead of me to look forward to.”
All photos we shot by John Meore for The Journal News. View’s John’s entire photo gallery from this match here.