By Will Springstead, Special to The News
GLENS FALLS – Portville’s fifth overall state girls volleyball title Sunday came with both ease and difficulty, probably just to show the Panthers could win both ways.
Portville swept Millbrook in three sets, 25-10, 25-15 and 25-23, in the Class C final of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament, a repeat of the 2017 matchup.
It was the Panthers’ second Class C title, with the other three coming in Class D. Portville has won a state title in four of the last five years.
Portville wins!!! NYS Champs!!! Way to go girls!!! pic.twitter.com/6u6l6X2Mzo
— Portville Athletics (@PCS_Panthers) November 18, 2018
Coach Kelly Unverdorben said her team has struggled all season with second sets. Not so Sunday. Millbrook closed to within 10-9, but the Panthers turned on the afterburners from that point.
“On the first switch, I was, like, ‘This is the end of the set two thing, let it happen to them.’ And then we just pushed it over to the third,” Unverdorben said.
In the third set, Millbrook rallied from an 8-3 deficit to take a 15-11 lead.
Steady play, however, from Class C tournament MVP Beth Miller and freshman setter Kylie Blessing helped Portville overcome it. Later, tied at 23, Sierra Keim’s kill gave Portville a one-point lead. She then delivered a back-line ace to close it out.
Both Keim (17 digs, six kills) and Blessing (28 assists, six digs) were named to the all-tournament team.
Blessing, in particular, didn’t play like a freshman when the lights were brightest. Unverdorben said that’s because of her work ethic.
“That kid is basically knocking on my door all the time,” she said. “ ‘Hey, can I get some setting reps? Is there a hitter I can set?’ Nonstop all the time.”
The winning easy part in the first two sets was crucial, Unverdorben added.
“We’ve been in that situation where we’ve been down two – St. Mary’s in fact. It’s tough to come back and win three sets against a good team,” she said.
Miller, a senior, had a gem of a game with 21 kills, 16 digs, two blocks and two aces.
“I think it’s really incredible for such a small town like us … to get girls to build up their skill this much,” Miller said. “I think it’s just amazing we pulled this off.”
Other Portville players with solid contributions included Ericka Carlson (18 digs, 16 points, six assists) and Sydney Colligan (15 points, nine digs, three blocks, two aces).
— NYSPHSAA (@NYSPHSAA) November 18, 2018