MARCY — The New Hartford Spartans had to prove what they were made of during Thursday night’s girls volleyball game at rival Whitesboro.
The Spartans came into the “Pink Game” undefeated, but just one game ahead of the Warriors in the Tri Valley League’s Colonial Division.
After Whitesboro came out with more intensity and focus to grab the opening set, the Spartans bounced back to win three straight for a huge 3-1 victory (19-25, 25-18, 26-24, 26-24) in front of a packed gym at Whitesboro High School. The win all but clinched the league title for the Spartans (7-0, 12-0), who have just three league matches remaining.
Chloe Elsenbeck had 15 kills and 19 digs and Ku Ku had 11 kills to lead the Spartans. New Hartford also got key contributions from several others, including Marie Winn (35 assists) and Shaye Gardinier (26 digs). Cameron Boehlert led the way for Whitesboro with 19 kills and 14 digs, while Erin Herrmann had 32 assists and 17 digs.
The Spartans expected Whitesboro (5-2, 9-3) to come out strong in the early going.
“I thought we’d lose the first (set),” New Hartford head coach Bill Gardinier said. “Coming here on “Pink Night” with a lot of people here, I didn’t think I’d get much out of that first set and expected to lose that one. But then I figured we’d be good once we got going because I feel we have the better hitters. Elsenbeck, Desmarais and Boehlert are probably the three best hitters in the area and maybe all of section 3.”
“It’s always big if you can come here and beat Whitesboro … no matter if it’s three, four or five (sets), it is always big. You probably don’t want to go to that fifth because we were up early in the fourth.”
Every season the Warriors host the Spartans in the “Pink Game” to raise money to help a person in the community suffering from Cancer. The proceeds go to aiding with bills that go along with treatment.
New Hartford does have more hitters as Elsenbeck, Madison Desmarais (9 kills) and Ku Ku form a strong trio that can get the ball to the floor. However, Whitesboro senior Cameron Boehlert led all players in kills and came out strong early as the Warriors were the quicker team as well as more accurate with their passing game.
“I am one of the strongest hitters, but I know that I can count on my team and I know that they will step up each game,” Boehlert said.
Strong serving from Farra Femia gave the Warriors an early 4-0 lead and the defending Section 3 champs never trailed in the first set. Boehlert, who finished the opening set with six kills, led the way as Whitesboro won 25-19.
“(Cameron) is a rock,” Whitesboro head coach Kelly Lenard said. “She’s always positive and never gets down and helps her teammates. It’s all about the team with her. And I’m really proud of the way other girls stepped up on the court tonight.”
The second set was deadlocked 5-5 before a quick 3-0 run behind two kills by Elsenbeck gave the Spartans the lead for good. Whitesboro closed to within 13-12, but a block and kill by Desmarais gave New Hartford some breathing room. The Warriors (5-2, 9-3) battled back late in the set to close to within 19-17, but the Spartans closed with a 6-1 run to knot the match.
“We always start slow, and then we just need to keep focused on our ‘banner season,'” senior Shaye Gardinier said. “That’s what we call it, because we’re so focused on winning that sectional title and that’s what really (motivates) us to get things in gear to win the game.”
The final two sets couldn’t have been closer as not much separated the teams. In the third, New Hartford raced out to an early 13-7 lead behind strong serving from Ku Ku and Elsenbeck. The Spartans held a 15-10 lead when the Warriors went on a 6-0 run as sophomore Kendal Dorozynski (4 aces) found her spots to help give her team a 16-15 lead.
The Spartans rebounded from the sloppy stretch and went on a 5-1 run to take a 20-17 lead on a trio of aces by Desmarais. Back and forth the teams went as Whitesboro won six of the next eight points to take a 23-22 advantage, and then held a set point at 24-23, but a block by Desmarais, an ace by Marie Winn set up Ku Ku’s set-winning kill that gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead.
The final set was just as thrilling with several lead changes and the Spartans, once again, jumping out to early advantages at 8-2 and 11-7.
Whitesboro then won six straight points with plenty of help from sloppy play by New Hartford. The Spartans temporarily steadied the ship to take a 16-15 lead before Whitesboro won five straight to go up 20-15. The teams traded points, but an error by New Hartford put the Warriors within a single point of forcing a deciding set at 24-21.
This is where the Spartans showed what they were made of as back-to-back kills by Elsenbeck closed the gap to 24-23. After the Warriors had four hits to even things, Elsenbeck hammered home another kill to give the Spartans a match point. New Hartford was able to close it out as Whitesboro hit into the net to end the grueling match.
“I think (Whitesboro) always plays its best game against us and we tend to psych ourselves out in the beginning and then we pull it together in the second set,” Elsenbeck said. “We knew it was just nerves and we picked it up in the second, third and fourth. It was pretty big to close it out. I didn’t know if we could pull it together, but we did. … I still had confidence if it went to a fifth set.”
Shaye Gardinier wasn’t as confident had the match went into the fifth.
“I really think we saw the scoreboard and said we can’t play a fifth game because we were exhausted,” Gardinier said. … “I’m so proud of the way we battled. We played so hard tonight and I’m exceptionally proud of the entire team.”
The Warriors lost 3-1 both times to the Spartans this season, but Thursday’s result was much different as Whitesboro was a few points from a 3-1 victory as they held set points in each of the final two sets.
“I thought this match we rose and showed how much better we are than earlier in the season,” Boehlert said. “We are definitely are going to keep getting better.”
Lenard is pleased with the progress her team has showed this season, and figures they might get a third shot at the Spartans.
“I think my girls played tremendous,” Lenard said. “I think we’ve come a long, long way since the first time we’ve played them and we are going to keep getting better as the season goes on. I am excited about the improvements we’ve made and showed tonight. I thought it was a great match and the deciding factor is that we started slow in the last three sets. We had to dig ourselves out of each set and just didn’t finish. Hopefully next time we’ll be finishing.”
Coach Gardinier is expecting another clash come playoff time.
“I just told Kelly, we’ll probably end up seeing them in semis,” Gardinier said.
New Hartford 3, Whitesboro 1
Set Scores: 19-25, 25-18, 26-24, 26-24.
New Hartford (7-0, 12-0): Marie Winn 35 assists, 5 digs, 2 kills, 2 aces; Shaye Gardinier 26 digs, 2 aces; Madison Desmarais 9 kills, 4 digs, 1 block, 3 aces; Chloe Kem 5 digs; Chloe Elsenbeck 15 kills, 19 digs, 4 aces; Ku Ku 11 kills, 5 digs; Kianna Kennedy 7 digs, 1 assist; Belle Vitagliano 3 kills, 1 dig; Kira Corasanti 4 digs, 2 blocks.
Whitesboro (5-2, 9-3): Cameron Boehlert 18 kills, 14 digs, 2 aces; Erin Herrmann 32 assists, 17 digs, 2 kills, 2 aces, 2 blocks; Karlie Cubino 10 digs, 6 kills, 4 aces; Kendal Dorozynski 6 kills, 4 aces, 2 blocks, 2 digs; Ariana DellaPosta 7 digs, 1 assist; Farra Femia 3 digs, 1 kill; Olivia Anderson 1 kill; Alex Butka 3 digs, 3 kills.