Section 1 representative: Suffern
Opponents: Massapequa (15-0), Penfield (15-2) and Shenendehowa (19-4)
Pool play round: Saturday, 8:30 a.m.
What to know about Suffern: The Mounties return to Glens Falls for the first time since 2011, but boast a completely different lineup. Senior outside hitter Sam Uline (pictured near right) is the only returnee from three years ago, but Suffern appears much more balanced and confident than in 2011. As coach Sean Barnes said, the 2011 team was just happy to make it to the Civic Center, and perhaps that got the better of Suffern during its 0-6 showing in pool play. The Civic Center was the goal from the beginning of this season. There is no “we’re just happy to be here,” this year; the Mounties are here to compete.
While almost all of the girls will be making their debuts in the Civic Center, the attitude in which they enter the building could help yield better results. Suffern didn’t play the competition some of the Westchester schools did all year due to its location, but when it did, it was stellar. In a four-team scrimmage match Wednesday at John Jay, the Mounties posted a 4-2 record.
The field is tough, but that’s what is to be expected when you reach this point in the season.
STAT FACTS: No Section 1 team has ever won a Class AA NYSPHSAA championship since the division was established in 2004. North Rockland, which is now a Class AA school, won prior to the division’s inception, grabbing titles in 1996 and 2000. Both Penfield (2011) and Massapequa (2007) have won Class AA titles.
What to know about Massapequa: A team that seems to field a competitor each season, Massapequa won the Breast Cancer Awareness tournament at Hen Hud on Sept. 6, defeating a number of top-notch programs en route to the undefeated win. Suffern did not attend that tournament.
The Chiefs boast 10 upperclassmen on their experienced squad, highlighted by senior outside hitter Alexandra Dillon. I’ve seen Massapequa in 2012 and this year at Hen Hud, leaving impressed both times. At Hen Hud, Massapequa topped a tough Old Tappan team in the semifinals before beating Horseheads in the finals. Again, playing the “Whom beat whom” game, John Jay recently beat Horseheads and Suffern took the first two games against the Indians earlier this year. Massapequa has yet to be beaten during a best-of-five match this year and rarely in tournaments, so it has certainly earned the respect to be considered the favorite this year.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Massapequa is beatable, but doing so will be tough — for anyone.
What to know about Penfield: The Patriots return three players — Abby Beecher, Erica Cappellino and Emma Stolz — from its 2011 championship squad, so they have some pieces coming back. Penfield handily swept Shenendehowa in tournament play earlier this year, 25-11, 25-9, which should give coach Andrew Solomon some added confidence.
Penfield has also seen some Section 1 talent, sweeping Hen Hud and John Jay-East Fishkill at the Garden State Challenge, 27-25, 25-23 and 25-16, 25-18, respectively. I think that Suffern could beat Hen Hud with slightly more ease, which is a good sign for the Mounties, but then again, Hen Hud always gets up for big matches. Either way, a really close match between Penfield and Hen Hud is good news for Suffern.
The Patriots swept Corning in tournament play, 25-12, 25-11, while Suffern beat Corning in the state regional semifinals, 25-19, 25-16, 25-20. Loaded with three 6-footers, Penfield’s size will mirror the Mounties, who have one of the tallest rosters in the section.
What to know about Shenendehowa: This looks like it will be a one-and-done run — at least for now — for the Plainsmen, who boast 10 seniors on this year’s roster. Shenendehowa topped defending champion Baldwinsville in the regional final to make clinch its first-ever trip to the state semifinals and end a four-year season-ending losing streak against the Bees.
The Plainsmen move well with and without the ball and have a nice amount of height on its roster. Beating Baldwinsville — which also won a state title in 2010 — carries weight in itself, but you have to think that getting over that hump has to have given Shenendehowa both the confidence to perform at Glens Falls, as well as the relaxation to play its game.
I’ve got some game stories and video attached below, so check them out. I think Class AA will be the most competitive of the four classes (for Section 1 teams), slightly ahead of Class A, where I think Pittsford-Sutherland is a heavy favorite to make the finals. In Class AA, I like Massapequa to at least get to the finals, if not win it all, but I haven’t seen Penfield or Shenendehowa live and, more importantly, I have not seen Suffern against Massapequa. I think Suffern has a legitimate chance to advance on Saturday, but, as is the case with essentially all 20 teams in Glens Falls, it will need to be at the top of its game.