PICKETTS CORNERS — The Saranac Lake volleyball team extended its dominating sectional title run to six straight Section VII, Class C championships on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Storm topped the AuSable Valley Patriots 3-2 in a back-and-forth Section VII, Class C championship game at Saranac Central High School on Saturday.
After Saranac Lake took the opening set by a 25-20 score, the Patriots rallied back, winning the next games by scores of 16-25 and 20-25. With their season on the line, the Red Storm pulled together to win the fourth set 25-16, before sealing its championship title with a 17-15 score in the fifth game.
“They were very resilient as usual,” Saranac Lake head coach Susan Waters said. “They’re kind of the comeback kids, we were down and came back in that final set and they pulled it out at the very end.”
Waters said it was a challenge for her team to put the ball down against a very good defensive performance from AuSable Valley. The Red Storm improved to 11-6 overall with the win.
When the Red Storm matched up against the Patriots on Sept. 14, it didn’t go so well. AuSable Valley swept past Saranac Lake 3-0.
But since that match, the Red Storm have won 10 of its last 14 outings, including a 3-1 road victory over the Patriots on Oct. 12.
Waters said since that loss, she has moved different people into some key positions and that has really served the team well.
“Anica Null is really controlling the middle of the court with her hitting and we had some strong blocking by freshman Mackenzie Crane,” she said. “(Crane) doesn’t have that much experience there, but she has height and pretty good timing and she’s smart.
“Our defense also has really come around. We’re picking up more of the short middle action and just making smarter plays overall,” Waters added. “Placing our shots and using a variety of shots. The girls are also just playing more cooperatively together. They’ve learned to anticipate what their teammates do and they’re reading the ball better.”
The Red Storm were led by freshman libero Lexie Donaldson, who recorded a team-high 32 digs, while also contributing with two points, one ace and one kill. Donaldson was also named the player of the match for her efforts. Waters said she definitely earned that recognition.
“Even when I coached her as a seventh grader, she just showed real promise and she’s developed so well over the last couple of years,” Waters said. “She has fast feet and she’s a smart player and really gets to the ball, takes risks and is an accurate passer. She just really covers the court — she flies around. She’s a really solid player and not just in her passing skills, but she has really strong hits.”
Alice Ladue had another strong match for Saranac Lake with a team-high 17 points and five aces. Payton Barry chipped in with 15 points, 12 digs, five aces and three kills.
Emily Gay was the Red Storm’s top setter with 19 assists while recording a triple-double. Gay had 16 points, 12 digs, six aces and three kills. Null had a solid all-around performance with 20 digs and eight kills. Crane recorded one kill and one block.
With the win, Saranac Lake is slated to take on the Section X champion, Canton Golden Bears, in the Class C subregional round at Massena High School at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The Golden Bears topped Tupper Lake 3-1 to win the Section X, Class C crown.
Waters said her team is going to work on a few areas that need to be polished before Wednesday’s contest.
“Our serving was not quite up to our best (on Saturday),” she said. “So we can always use more serving practice and we’re going to work on more of our defensive strategy as well.”
SL — Alice Ladue 17 points, 5 aces, 6 digs; Anica Null 8 kills, 20 digs; Payton Barry 15 points, 5 aces, 3 kills, 12 digs; Lexie Donaldson 2 points, 1 ace, 1 kill, 32 digs; Gracen Foster 6 points, 2 aces, 5 kills, 1 assists, 3 digs, 1 block; Emily Gay 16 points, 6 aces, 3 kills, 19 assists, 12 digs; Abby Isabella 3 kills, 7 digs; Sophia McBride 1 point, 1 ace, 1 kill, 8 digs; Madi Hathaway 3 digs; Mackenzie Crane 1 kill, 1 block; Rori Chenaille-Schenk 3 points, 1 dig.