GLENS FALLS – Meghan Ballou called it bittersweet to finish her volleyball career Sunday.
At least she had an extra, fairly unexpected set to soak it in a little longer. Eden won its seventh consecutive state title at Glens Falls Civic Center, the only glitch being a second-set breakdown that briefly tied the match.
All Eden did with the sets tied at one was to win 50 of the next 74 points on the way to a 25-19, 24-26, 25-11, 25-13 four-game cruise against Millbrook in the Class C championship match. Eden’s coach called it the most competitive championship match his team has had since dropping from the B class.
“I know the kids were really nervous about this beforehand,” coach Stephen Pierce said. “They didn’t want to be the ones where the streak ended. But I’m really proud of the way they handled it.”
The second set was probably the most newsy item, just because it was the least expected part of an otherwise fairly routine match.
The Raiders took the first set, 25-20, and it wasn’t even really that close. They were ahead, 19-13, in the second set when Pierce felt obligated to call timeout after Millbrook (Section IX) cut that to three points. The Blazers erupted off the bench when the referee’s whistle halted play.
And they weren’t done, pulling to within 24-23 on an ace and then getting another one to tie it.
Two blocks finished off the uprising.
“For some teams, that really shatters them,” tournament MVP Ballou said. “It made us want to work together and figure out how to overcome that challenge.”
Eden hustled to an 11-6 lead in Game Three. The start of Game Four earned the first eight points off Molly Breier’s serve.
“We played smart, that’s what got us back in it,” Milbrook coach Shawn Stoliker said. “We weren’t just hitting to hit or serving to serve. Everything had a purpose. But the unforced errors got to us in the last two games.”
Several championship-winning teams celebrated more boisterously, hitting the floor and becoming a pile.
Eden was more sedate. Sideline players jogged to the net to reach teammates who had obviously been through this a time or two.
Ballou has been on these teams for six years.
“Really, it’s not just expected, but it’s the outcome that we want,” she said. “We put a lot of work into this. … I wish I could make the season longer, I really do. It’s bittersweet.”
The only other listed seniors were Sarah Hooper and Carly DiNardo, meaning there’s room to grow.
Pierce could smile at some teaching moments that will help in 2016 and beyond. A couple of Millbrook serves caromed hard off the net and on to the ground for easy points in that second-set turnaround. That’s just bad luck. Pierce said there also were a couple of balls Eden froze on, “wishing they’d go out, and they were three feet in.”
But the biggest takeaway might have been how well the team played, particularly at the start of the match. Even Pierce was a little surprised how easily the points came.
“We were playing very well. We were on top of our game early,” Pierce said.
And they returned to that form to claim a seventh title.