By Mike Zummo
No matter when the season took place, whether it be the fall or the March/April Fall 2 season, it ended the same way the previous two seasons had ended.
With the Pine Bush volleyball team holding the Section 9 Class AA championship plaque.
Pine Bush played two matches in as many days, and defeated the Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders, 3-1, on April 20 to win their third straight Section 9 Class AA championship.
“It did feel good,” Pine Bush coach Melyssa Klempner-Amelio said. “It was a very emotional season. Most of the kids in the program have been in the volleyball program for years, even before modified. It was emotional.”
Alandra Hasbrouck led Pine Bush, who finished with a 10-2 record, with 38 assists, 28 digs, two aces, six kills and a block, while Kaeli Murtagh had 25 kills, two digs and two blocks. Sierra Birmingham had 12 kills, seven digs and four aces and Kiara Vasquez had 22 digs, four assists and two aces. Zoe Rodi had eight kills, eight digs and an assist.
The win ended a long year that started with school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March and continued in September when the New York Dept. of Health deemed volleyball a high-risk sport. The move caused the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to postpone the season to March 1.
“It was nice to get back into the gym, and I think we just took a deep breath when we first walked in and we realized we were actually back because I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Klempner-Amelio said. “I don’t think the kids thought it would happen.”
Pine Bush won five straight matches to start the season before heading into quarantine after their March 19 win over Washingtonville.
They didn’t play again until April 5, when they defeated Kingston, but then lost their only two matches of the season, 3-2 to Warwick on April 7 and 3-0 to Valley Central on April 9.
“We struggled a little bit coming back,” Klempner-Amelio said. “But once we got into the groove, they pretty much played as I expected them to. They’re a very hard-working, dedicated and a very close team. So, they knew what they had to do.”
They then won their last two matches (Valley Central and Middletown) heading into the sectional playoffs.
They opened the playoffs on April 19 with a 3-0 win over Warwick.
Hasbrouck had 32 assists, 13 digs, an ace, and two kills, and Birmingham had 13 kills, five digs and seven aces. Vazquez had 16 digs, four assists and Murtaugh had 13 kills, three digs and a block.
Sarah Davis led Warwick (11-5) with 10 kills, six digs, 11 assists and 2 blocks. Emily Redpath had seven kills and three digs and Grace Hennessy had 15 digs.
In the finals against Monroe-Woodbury, Pine Bush won the first match 25-14 before running into trouble in the second.
In the second game, they trailed, 20-15, before rebounding to win the set, 28-26.
“These girls have been together for quite some time,” Klempner-Amelio said. “Unfortunately, volleyball is up and down. We had a big lead in the first game, and beat them by a good amount, but in the second game, we had to tell them that was easy but you’re going to have to learn to go through the ups and downs of the next game.”
The Crusaders won the second game, 25-19, but Pine Bush finished the match with a 25-15 win, sending Pine Bush to its 18th volleyball title.
This was the first title they were able to clinch on their home floor but couldn’t do it in front of their large cheering section as COVID-19 protocols prohibit spectators at indoor events.
“They were able to create their own energy and feed off one another,” Klempner-Amelio said. “It has always been very loud the whole season. They knew what they were getting into. They were happy to be playing and they just love the game and they wanted to finish it and add another notch.”