CHITTENANGO – The Whitesboro Warriors fell 3-1 to top-seeded Carthage in the Section III, Class A girls volleyball final Saturday at Chittenango Central School, as the Comets (20-0) claimed their second straight title.
Despite falling just short of accomplishing the ultimate goal, Whitesboro head coach Kelly Entwistle will always have a special place in her heart for the 2015-16 team.
“This is the hardest working group,” an emotional Entwistle said. “They’ll try anything and do anything I ask. I believe in them at all times. We had great relationships, all got along and worked together. I just tried to teach them how to play the game correctly and they did the rest. It’s the tightest-knit team I’ve ever coached.”
Carthage, the No. 1 seed, claimed its second straight title and extended its win streak to 40. The Comets rolled in the opening two games 25-19 and 25-12. The third-seeded Warriors showed their grit in taking the third game 25-20, but in a back-and-forth fourth game, the Comets advantage in size proved too much as they finished it off 25-21.
“I have a very balanced team,” said Carthage head coach Angela Robbins, who is in her 26th season. “I have five hitters out there and it makes it difficult for opponents to figure out where the ball is going. Because we are so balanced other teams don’t know how to defend against us. Plus, if someone’s off, someone else picks it up.”
Senior star Marissa Ixtlahuac, a 6-foot hitter, led the way for the Comets with 12 kills two blocks and four digs. Mia Pariona had nine kills and five digs, Courtney Benson had seven kills and 17 digs and Kerri McHale had 35 assists for the Comets. Carthage also matched Whitesboro’s ability to win points while scrambling as Jackie Williams came up big with 23 digs to extend many points the Warriors seem to control.
“Usually we just play our game,” Ixtlahuac said of not being familiar with Whitesboro due to the teams not playing each other before Saturday. “For example, if our opponent is playing slow or quick, we play the same tempo, which is more of a medium tempo. I think today we communicated as well as we have all season. Plus, the motivation of finishing on top and unbeaten pushed us all the way through.”
Alexiz Webster had 14 kills and eight digs for the Warriors, who finished 17-2. Christina Borza had nine kills, 14 digs and three aces, while Paige Porta (27 digs) and Meghan Herrmann (44 assists) made key contributions for Whitesboro.
Carthage seized control early in each of the first two games. The Comets quickly built a 6-2 advantage in the first. After Whitesboro closed within 9-8, Carthage went on a 5-0 run to pull away.
In the second game, Whitesboro took a 9-8 lead on a Borza kill, but Carthage went on another 5-0 run to grab the lead for good. The Warriors narrowed the margin to 15-12, but the Comets won the final 10 points of the game to grab a 2-0 lead.
“I think we dug ourselves into a hole losing those first two games,” Webster said. “We fought hard and played hard every game and got back into it, but we couldn’t come all the way back.”
Entwistle thought her team was a bit nervous early on and it showed in their play.
““We were tight the first two sets,” Entwistle said. “We settled in during the third set and they kept pressure on in the fourth. I think they just controlled the tempo of the match a little longer than we did. (The Comets) are a great team and when you’re not aggressive enough you’re going to have trouble.”
With their backs against the wall, the Warriors began to play their preferred fast-paced game in the third set. After splitting the first four points, the Warriors went on a 4-0 run to take a 6-2 lead. Carthage kept it close and was able to tie the game at 13 on a Ixtlahuac kill, and later grabbed a brief 15-14 lead before Borza won five straight service points to give the Warriors the separation they needed en route to pulling to within 2-1.
In the fourth set, the teams traded early leads until the Comets took the lead for good by winning four-straight points to make it 12-9. The Warriors responded to nearly every run, three times pulling within a point of tying the game, but after Marissa Burke’s kill pulled Whitesboro within one at 20-19, Carthage made the decisive run winning the next four points. The Warriors won the next two points on kills by Borza and Herrmann, but the powerful Ixtlahuac, who had several emphatic spikes, ended it with a finesse play, dumping the title-winning point over Whitesboro’s blockers.
Claire Parisi, who had eight kills, and Webster are two of Whitesboro’s departing seniors, never will forget their teammates and the incredible journey this team made from opening day all the way to the sectional final
“We had a great season and even though we lost I’m happy with the way it turned out,” Parisi said. “The camaraderie is what I’m going to miss most. The first day of practice, I remember thinking this is going to be a great team. We just jelled immediately.”
“I’ve been best friends with five of these girls and everyone on the team gets along,” Webster said. “We play together and hang out on and off the court. I love every single one of them.”
Carthage 3, Whitesboro 1
Game Scores: 25-19, 25-12, 20-25, 25-21.
Whitesboro (17-2): Alexiz Webster 14 kills, 8 digs; Christina Borza 9 kills, 14 digs, 3 aces; Meghan Herrmann 44 assists; Paige Porta 2 aces, 2 kills, 27 digs; Claire Parisi 8 kills, Marissa Burke 8 kills.
Carthage (20-0): Marissa Ixtlahuac 12 kills, 2 blocks, 4 digs; Kerri McHale 35 assists, 16 service points; Mia Pariona 9 kills, 5 digs; 15 service points; Courtney Benson 7 kills, 17 digs, 9 service points; Jackie Williams 23 digs; Mikhala Martens 6 kills, 8 digs.