This was one of the more exhausting weeks of my career at Lohud, but it’s finally over. I’m back from covering the girls tennis state tournament in Latham, so now that I’ve recharged the batteries a bit, here are your (very late) Lohud rankings for the final week of the Section 1 season.
I am not doing #POTW posts anymore because there is too small a pool of teams to pick from. However, since half of my ranked teams are still playing in the state tournament, I will continue to do power rankings for the final two weeks of the season. I’m not expecting a plethora of changes, but anything can happen, so if and when it does, I will take that into account.
I’m still pretty tired, so I will make the bottom half of my descriptions pretty brief. There are some decisions that perhaps need some explaining, so, since I owe you that, I will do so. Here are updated rankings, which features a new No. 1 team:
1. Ardsley (last week’s rank: 2): Teams like Yorktown, John Jay and Panas are fortunate because they get to see each other often, so it’s easier to gauge how each sizes up with one another. Ardsley didn’t play Yorktown, Suffern, or Panas — three of my top-five teams, so it’s tough to put them at the top, which is why I held out this long. I hate the, “Well, this team beat that team, so how do you have this team above that team” theory more than I hate high-waisted jean shorts — and that’s a deep hatred. The logic is flawed. Different teams match up differently with other teams; that’s just the way it is. Whether or not you agree Ardsley is the No. 1 team or not, you can’t argue with the fact that it deserves to be in the conversation. Yes, it lost to Yorktown in tournaments — badly; yes, it lost to Panas in a tournament; but it also beat John Jay, a team that swept Panas (twice) and beat Yorktown (twice). So if you’re looking for an example of how that logic is flawed, ta-da! The Panthers were dominant in the Section 1 Class B tournament — rarely were they truly contested, and they got contributions from a number of players. If both Ardsley and John Jay make it to Glens Falls, I’ll be able to see them in action again at the same time (albeit against different competition, of course) but if the Panthers look awful and the Indians look exceptional — even if neither leaves with a state title, I may move John Jay back into No. 1. But for now, it’s Ardsley’s. You can like it, you can love it, but I hope you can at least respect it.
2. John Jay (last week’s rank: 3): I’m pretty sure that I’ve said that Ardsley, John Jay and Yorktown could essentially be interchangeable and that you can make a strong case for either of them to be No. 1. I strongly considered going with John Jay-Ardsley-Yorktown (spoiler alert) this week, especially after watching the Indians play on Saturday. It was tremendous — from Yorktown, too — arguably, and most likely, the best match I’ve ever seen in four years on the beat. One parent told me that coach Tom Rizzotti had “a few tricks up his sleeve” for the championship match, and wow were they right. The Indians looked like a completely different team than the one that was manhandled by Yorktown earlier this season. They looked more like the team I saw at Hen Hud at the Breast Cancer Awareness tournament — well-rounded, unified, aggressive. I felt in my gut that John Jay would be the section champion this year from the time it lost in last year’s final; I publicized it on June 3 and then stuck with it again on Sept. 9. I changed my #Zacketology pick because I felt, at the time, Yorktown was playing better volleyball and therefore would win the match. I think if you put those two in a gym for 10 matches, they’ll each win five. I’d love to see Ardsley in the gym, as well. Anyway, John Jay is currently No. 2, but can still definitely move to No. 1. The Indians have had a tremendous season so far, now let’s see where it ends.
3. Yorktown (last week’s rank: 1): Every year it seems like there’s one team fans think I have a personal bias towards (last year, Panas; this year, John Jay), while intentionally snubbing other teams or taking away from their accomplishments. I’m sure a lot of Yorktown fans feel this way, despite the fact that it has been my No. 1 team most of the season and that I picked it to win the section with my #Zacketology pick. You look at this list and it seems like, “No. 1 (huge gap), No. 2 (huge gap), No. 3 (huge gap),” and so on. No. My top three picks are right underneath one another. If I made a pro/cons list for each one, I’d probably burn an entire notebook. The Huskers are incredible; what Katy Sherwood did with this year’s team is nothing short of spectacular. Only two losses this year (to the same team) and both went five games; not to mention the fact that it swept said team earlier in the year. I’m sure the number of people who think I favor John Jay and/or slant away from Yorktown, is minimal (even though I believe I’ve seen and/or written about Yorktown more than any other team in the section this year), but I assure you all that I have no preference towards any team in this section. I want to see good volleyball. If it’s a late match, I’d prefer it to be a sweep, with three close games, but that’s about it. Even with the section final loss to John Jay, you can still argue that Yorktown is a No. 1 team. It’s debatable; and if it’s debatable, that means it belongs in the conversation; and Yorktown definitely belongs in the conversation.
4. Suffern (last week’s rank: 4): I’m glad I got to see Suffern again. I only it sparingly this year, so getting another look at it was good for me to feel confident in having them where I do. Clarkstown South battled with the Mounties in that Class AA final — it made them work for it and it made them earn it. It perhaps knocked Suffern off its balance a little, which is good; everyone — volleyball teams included — need to be kept in check from time to time. But where Suffern showed that it could be beaten (the first two games), it also showed just how dominating it could be (third game). I’ve been asked if 2014 Suffern is better than 2011 Suffern, which went to the state semifinals, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t know only because I didn’t know what to look for in 2011; I didn’t know what I was really watching. From the vague recollection that I do have, I think this year’s roster is more well-rounded than the one three years ago, but my memory isn’t the greatest. I think Suffern can definitely get to the state semifinals again, and even improve on its 2011 performance. Hey, it went 0-6 in pool play; you can pretty much only go up.
5. Panas (last week’s rank: 5): Just as I was ready (confidently) call Ardsley as my 2014 Section 1 Class B champions after last year’s final, I was pretty much ready to call Panas as my 2015 Section 1 Class A champions the first time I saw it play. That’s how good it is right now, and the ceiling on this team is through the roof. One parent from an out-of-class team was telling me that, as good as John Jay and Yorktown have been these past two years, it’s nothing compared to what Panas can do to Class A over the next two or three years, and I kind of believe them. Both John Jay and Yorktown are graduating most of their big guns and I don’t see any other Class A team in the field that really jumped out as a right-now contender other than Panas. This was not Panas’ year; I’m sure it would have liked it to be, but I think, realistically, it knew it wasn’t. This team will run roughshod in the class for the next coming years.
6. Clarkstown South (last week’s rank: 6): The Vikings were one of the biggest turnaround teams I saw this season. I’ve said since last year that this team has had the talent to do damage, but that communication and chemistry issues would be their downfall, and for the most part, it was. Not Saturday. Entering Saturday, there was a decent-sized gap between Panas and Clarkstown South in my books, but after seeing it in action, I almost wanted to put Clarkstown South ahead of Panas. The Vikings were communicative; they were aggressive in a way I haven’t seen in a while; they were playing like a team. Coach Paul Bacsardi put the pieces of his puzzle together, but it just wasn’t enough to beat an extremely talented Suffern team. I hate having to face or talk to losing coaches or players, especially when their season just ended; it’s awkward; you have to talk to these people, some with tears in their eyes and try to show no compassion for what they just experienced sometimes no less than 15 minutes ago. It’s cliched to say, “You have nothing to hang your head about,” but for a lot of teams this year, it’s really true, with Clarkstown South being one of them. It went from a team that looked like it would never have a chance against Suffern — which was the only team it lost to in a match this year, I might add — to one that nearly went up 2-0 on it in a section final. That’s progress. At the end of the day, when the Vikings look back and see that, they’ll be proud of what they accomplished.
7. Haldane (last week’s rank: 7): Well, it’s state tournament time, a.k.a. that time of the year when I overload on Haldane volleyball like a fat kid at a buffet. I’ll reassess the Blue Devils as they move towards a second consecutive state title.
8. Hen Hud (last week’s rank: 8): I expected Diane Swertfager’s gals to put up a fight against Ardsley, and it did. The Sailors took a game from the undefeated Panthers, but fell short in the section semifinals. If its any consolation, I even had another Section 1 coach tell me, “That’s the real section final,” referring to the semifinal contest. Hen Hud has some nice young pieces that I’m sure Swertfager will mold into a section champion by graduation.
9. Mahopac (last week’s rank: 9): Another team that had an overwhelmingly successful season, the Indians entered the conversation of being a section-title contender for the first time in a while. Coach James Melville will graduate a truckload (eight), including his twin towers of Niamh Dodd and Alayne Felix, but he’ll have six juniors returning, which should help keep the Indians competitive.
10. Scarsdale (last week’s rank: 10): Another team that some people I leaned on most of the season, the Raiders were very talented this season and should be just as competitive next season. Admittedly, I did try to show Scarsdale some much-overdue love, but I can assure you that it was in no way biased; it was simply making up for past sins. I have a few teams each year that I have unfinished business with and owe some love to (next year is Clarkstown North, Blind Brook, Pelham, Yonkers and Fox Lane, among others). The Raiders lose huge pieces in middle blocker Lauren Hendel and setter Michelle Li, as well as solid pieces in Emily Reed and Rachel Klein, but with star juniors Tatiana Tiangco and Kristine Fink returning, the Raiders should be in excellent shape if it can find a solid setter for 2015.
Photo credit: The Journal News