By Will Springstead, Special to The News
GLENS FALLS – In the moment, Niagara Wheatfield’s five-set loss to Wantagh for the state title Sunday hurt. But not for long, because the Falcons knew how much they had achieved just to get there.
Wantagh rallied to edge the Falcons, 23-25, 25-22, 20-25, 26-24 and 28-26, in the Class A championship for its first New York State Public High School Athletic Association title since 2001 and just its second overall.
Niagara Wheatfield was trying for its first state title and to become the 15th school from volleyball-rich Section VI to win a state championship.
It was a match where every point was so precious and hard-fought that the Falcons’ third-set win by five points felt as if it were one-sided.
“Twenty-eight to 26,” Niagara Wheatfield coach Brandi Cochran said, repeating the fifth-set score. "You can’t stretch out a game any further than that. I guess you could go to the 40s, but they stretched out their season as long as they could.”
It was a season in which Cochran felt her team was the underdog when it got deep into the postseason, especially considering the program had never won a Section VI crown.
“I don’t think anyone thought that Niagara Wheatfield was even going to take a Section VI final,” Cochran said. “I think a great Will South team, when we played them everyone thought they were going to roll us, (and we) beat them in five. Irondequoit, a great Section V team, I don’t know if people thought we could do it and we took them. So here it was, ‘Why not? Why can’t it be Niagara Wheatfield?’ ”
And for the first three sets, it was. Behind the play of all-tournament-team selections Danielle Brochey at outside hitter and Jenna Sonnenberg at libero, Niagara Wheatfield put its best foot forward.
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Wantagh, however, sensed time was short and didn’t trail in the fourth set.
In the fifth set, the Warriors held a comfortable five- to six-point lead for much of it, with Niagara Wheatfield hurt by several serves that went long or hit the net. It rallied, however, to earn its first tie at 20 and its first lead, 26-25, off Kelsey Tylec’s block.
The Falcons, however, were called for a carry, mishit a return and couldn’t get the ball back over the net on the match’s final three points.