Tioga comes up just short of spot in state final
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - For coach Des Ford, Saturday's New York State Class D "Final Four" volleyball playoffs was a case of opportunities lost.
The Lady Tigers finished 3-3 in pool play to finish third in the State, but also saw three-point leads disappear late in a pair of their losses.
"We let a couple games slip away," said Ford, who was taking her third team to the "Final Four."
The last time Ford was in Glens Falls, her 2009 team missed out on a title game appearance by the now-obsolete "point differential" tiebreaker. For Ford, Saturday was eerily familiar.
"I look at Randolph, if we had won that first game â¦ it's the same thing as 2009 when we split with Loudonville."
The Lady Tigers let a 17-14 lead slip away in the opening set of the day as Randolph rallied for a 25-22 win. They righted the ship with a 25-15 win in the second set.
The first set was close throughout with Tioga leading for the majority, taking its biggest lead at 16-13, then again at 17-14.
Randolph rallied to take a 19-18 lead and after a side-out tied the score - the 10th deadlock in the set - regained the lead at 20-19 and never trailed again.
The set was highlighted by the strong hitting of Tioga's Bry Godfrey and Randolph's McKenna Maycock, sister of Randolph QB Mitch Maycock.
"We got the nerves out of the way and we won the second game," said Ford.
In the second set, a five-point service run by Swagler gave Tioga an early 8-2 lead.
Randolph cut the lead to 8-5, but the Lady Tigers pushed the lead back to six points on a pair of serves by Kennadi Lubertowicz.
After a side-out gave Tioga a 15-9 lead, Malley Bowen served up three straight points to push the lead to 18-9 and Randolph never got closer than eight points again in a 25-15 decision.
"We got behind early against Haldane, but we came back," she said. "The girls played hard. They fought hard for two games against Haldane."
Haldane, which has been in the Class D championship game in each of the last three years and won state titles in 2007 and 2011, pulled out a pair of close contests, topping Tioga by scores of 28-26 and 25-23.
In the first game, the Lady Tigers rallied from an early 8-3 deficit to tie the match at 8-all on a five-point service run by Lexi Swagler.
The match remained tight with Tioga's only lead coming at 13-12 until a three-point service run by Malley Bowen gave the Lady Tigers their biggest lead of the set at 18-15.
Haldane answered as 6-2 junior hitter Kelly Vahos began to take control at the net. Melissa Tringali's four-point service run, highlighted by a pair of Vahos kills, gave Haldane a 20-18 lead.
The Lady Blue maintained a slim lead and had set point at 24-23, but Tioga stayed alive with an Olivia Howland block at the net.
Tioga survived another set point at 24-25, then took a 26-25 lead on a Swagler touch shot at the net, but a Vahos kill triggered a three-point Haldane run to end the set.
In the second set, Tioga led at 2-1 and 3-2, then not again until Godfrey's four-point run, which included an ace and a kill by Howland, gave the Lady Tigers a brief lead at 19-18.
Haldane tied the game on a side-out and it was tied again at 20-20, but the Lady Blue Devils took the lead for good on another Tioga side-out en route to a 25-23 decision.
"I am very pleased. They played strong - it definitely showed in the first four sets of pool play," said Ford.
After the loss to Haldane, Tioga needed the Lady Blue Devils to sweep Randolph, then needed to sweep Waterford to force a one-game playoff with Randolph for the right to take on Haldane in the Class D title match Sunday afternoon.
Haldane breezed to a 25-15 win in the first set, but Ford and the Lady Tigers were forced to sit helplessly as Haldane sat three of its starters to begin the second set with Randolph and quickly fell behind 9-1. The Lady Blue Devils never recovered and Randolph advanced with a 25-14 win.
Tioga held up its end of the bargain with a sweep of Waterford by scores of 25-18 and 25-19.
"Coming back and re-gaining their composure in the final sets after watching their chance to get into a playoff game (against Randolph) was dwindling point by point was impressive," said Ford. "They kept their heads up finished strong.
"They played hard for themselves, for their school district and for Section IV," she added. "I'm very proud of them."
Ford will bid farewell to a quartet of seniors in Godfrey, Charlsie Bowen, Donette Hutchison and Lexi Swagler.
"I'm thrilled to think that three out of our four seniors want to go on to college to play. ," she said. "It's nice that the kids love the sport as much as I love it after coaching for 31 years and playing in high school myself."
Despite the losses to graduation, Ford knows the cupboard is not bare.
"The kids coming back have heart.
"We have a solid junior class and you throw (freshman) Olivia Howland in the mix, they want to get back here next year," she said.