By Mitch Silver
The moment the Rye Neck Girls’ Volleyball team finished their straight-set win over Pawling in the Class C semifinals November 3, Head Coach Kristin Desio and her crew turned their thoughts to Haldane and the Sectional finals the following Sunday morning at Pace University.
“We beat Haldane during the season in four sets, but we were playing our absolute best and they looked a little sluggish,” Coach Desio confided. “They’re used to winning the big ones.”
That last bit might have been an understatement. When the two squads met for the championship, Rye Neck was looking for its first title since 2011. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils were gunning for their 14th Sectional crown in 16 seasons. Of course, their streak of 13 consecutive titles came against small school competition before moving up a class in 2015.
Rye Neck took the first set and was ahead 10-7 in the third when a Haldane timeout led to an 18-6 run and a 2-1 lead that seemed to deflate the locals. Even so, the players and coach held their heads high.
The second-seeded Blue Devils beat the Panthers 22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-19, proving to be every bit as tough as Coach Desio had suspected.
“The senior leadership on this team got us where we are today,” Coach Desio said. “The clincher, I think, was when Sam Yannuzzi agreed to give up her cherished libero jersey so we could use her strength as a hitter outside. Her unselfishness set the tone.”
Olivia Beach, the powerful senior who led the team in kills, echoed her words. “There’s a lot of love on this team. And love is a really powerful thing.”
Photos: Haldane tops Rye in Class C volleyball final
Olivia Beach powers the ball through Pawling’s attempted blocks in the semifinals.