Want to know what’s in store for Haldane this weekend? Take a look…
Haldane vs. Randolph (Section 6), Tioga (Section 4) and Waterford (Section 2)
What: NYSPHSAA Class D state semifinals
When: Saturday, starting at 3 p.m.
Where: Glens Falls Civic Center
Key Haldane players: Sara Chirico, Sr., S; Katie Cunningham, Sr., OH; Kelly Vahos, Jr., OH.
Next up: The two top teams from pool play advance to Sunday’s state championship at 2 p.m.
Outlook: No team will be more experienced in this class than Haldane, which returns a solid core from last year’s state-runner-up team, but the Blue Devils are a much different team than last year. After working out a few kinks in the beginning of the season, head coach Melissa Rossano looks to have found her replacements from a departed senior class last year, which included all-state hitter/setter hybrid and current Tulane setter Lauren Etta.
Etta, a do-it-all-dynamo, was instrumental in Haldane’s tournament runs with both her talent and veteran leadership, while setter/defensive specialist Claudia Percacciolo and libero Gabby Carnabucci held down the Blue Devils defense. Vahos (pictured below, with photobomb from me) has assumed the offensive leadership role, amassing 367 kills in just 66 games played. Cunningham (207 kills) has been the perfect sidekick to Vahos, adding powerful, often nonreturnable kill attempts. Senior Sara Chirico has taken the full-time setter role and ran with it.
Thanks to one of the best overall defenses in the section, Haldane was able to compete against its Class AA- and Class A-loaded schedule. Rookies Brooke Vahos and Melissa Tringali have made the most of their varsity debuts; Vahos, a freshman, has aided in Haldane’s hitting and blocking while Tringali, a sophomore, has done a tremendous job as the team’s libero.
One of Haldane’s biggest weaknesses this season is that outside of Kelly Vahos, a 6-foot-2 hitter, the Blue Devils don’t have an abundance of height. Luckily for the 11-time Section 1 champs, most of this year’s field is in the same boat.
Randolph will be looking to make its third state final in four years after a rebuilding season last year. The Cardinals, led by junior Mckenna Maycock, have established a rivalry with Haldane after the two exchanged wins over each other in the state finals in 2010 and 2011. Maycock, a three-sport stud at Randolph, orally committed to St. Bonaventure for basketball… after her sophomore year. Randolph may not have a six-footer on its 12-player roster, but many of the girls sit in the 5-foot-8 range, so if nothing else, its balanced. The Cardinals (22-2) knocked off last year’s champ, Ellicottville, in the Section 6 semifinals this year. Head coach Robin Maycock has plenty of winning experience at the state tournament, with title wins in 2005 and 2006, as well as her 2010 crown.
Tioga (19-1) will be making its third trip to Glens Falls under coach Desiree Ford and first since 2009, but will likely leave without a state title. The Tigers’ performance this season could be a strong indicator on how they should perform next season, with only three seniors expected to graduate. Outside hitter and senior captain Bry Godfrey, the reigning All-Valley player of the year for Section 4, will lead the attack for the Tigers, who bounced last year’s state semifinalist LaFayette in the regional final.
Waterford will be the rookie in the field, making its first Civic Center appearance after winning its first Section 2 title. But what the Fordians (17-2) lack in experience, they more than make up for in height and balance. Loaded with five players checking-in at 5-foot-10 or taller, Waterford has the most balanced offensive attack of the four teams, headlined by junior Carly Howe. The 5-foot-10 middle hitter leads the team in kills (186), aces (142) and blocks (58). The Tigers offense is rounded out by junior Emily Schumacker (161 kills, 111 aces), senior Michaela Miller (137 kills) and Erin Formosa (105 kills). No Section 2 team has won a Class D state title since 2001.
FUN FACT: In the last eight years, the Class D state championship has been won by Section 1 or Section 6 seven times. Haldane and Randolph have won six of those seven titles.
My prediction: I’ve made predictions all season, so why stop now? If trying to predict at the regional level — where we may rarely see a team — was tough, predicting the state team — where we never see a team — will be a complete shot in the dark; but I’ll give it my best Pat Benatar.
Haldane is very good; I’ve thought that since seeing it at the Hen Hud tournament. The team’s experience at Glens Falls should help, but I don’t know if the Blue Devils can overcome such a vast height disadvantage. You have to think that Randolph is the favorite to at least make it to Sunday, and that the other three teams will fight for the final spot.
I don’t think Haldane advances to Sunday; I think either Tioga or Waterford could give the Blue Devils a workout on the court, plus with Randolph in the mix, Haldane will have a tough time winning the four or five games needed to advance. Nothing against Haldane, I just think that at this level the more well-rounded teams tend to rise to the top. Haldane was solid — depth-wise — the last two seasons and still fell in last year’s final. Ultimately, my early (and completely guesstimated) prediction is that Randolph beats Waterford in the final, 3-1.
For those of you traveling to Glens Falls, I’ll see you up there. Dress warm — even in the Civic Center; last year was like an ice box. (Yes, I know it doubles as an ice rink, but still.)
Haldane photo credit: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News
Photo credit for other teams: MaxPreps