Nov. 5—SARANAC — If anything, the Saranac Lake/AuSable Valley Class C sectional final clash became an instant classic.
For the sixth year in a row it ended the same way, with the Red Storm crowned as Section VII champions.
"My sisters won the first championships for the school," Emily Gay said. "To be the youngest sister and continuing that tradition is simply great."
The Red Storm had to rally to defeat the Patriots. After winning the first set 25-20, Saranac Lake would drop the next two by scores of 16-25 and 20-25.
It would put AuSable Valley on the brink walking out as the section champions, but the Red Storm never stopped believing.
In their huddles between sets you could hear players like Payton Barry telling the team to forget the last game and focus on who they are, that they still had a chance.
"There were moments where we needed to dig ourselves out of a hole," Gay said. "We're really good at getting out of them.
"Especially after the second and third sets, we really need to get our spirits up. Overall I think we played great and played up to our potential."
There were numerous momentum swings throughout the match, but none more greater than in the fourth set.
Saranac Lake's Alice Ladue, who finished with a team high 17 points with five assists, went on a run to put some distance between the teams. It turned out to be enough to send the game into a deciding fifth set.
Similarly to their opponent, AuSable Valley was heard doing the same thing. Heading into the final set Shauna Depo was rallying her team to focus on the task at hand and they could win.
It didn't come out that way as Saranac Lake won the deciding set, 17-15.
The Red Storm had multiple players serving well. Along with Ladue, Barry and Gay finished with 15 and 16 points, respectively.
Both Barry and Gay finished with double-doubles as both had 12 digs.
"I knew it wasn't about who was serving, and if the ball would get over the net or not. It was about us and keeping the play going," Saranac Lake player of the game, Lexie Donaldson said. We're also a great defensive team.
"Past teams have been that way as well. We knew what we were doing."
Donaldson continued to sacrifice her body for the cause, routinely diving to save errant balls all around the court. She finished with a game high 32 digs.
What made this game a classic was not just the fact it was the rubber match, as both schools won away from home. But, there were long rallies as both teams gave it their all.
In fact both teams combined for 180 digs, 104 by the Red Storm.
"It's intense," Gay said. "They're a very well coached team.
"We were nervous coming into this game because we knew they could beat us. But, we had the belief that we could beat them. That's what it came down to, we needed to know we could beat them."
The Patriots were obviously crestfallen as the game ended, coming together for consolation and showing they had given it all on the court.
AuSable Valley's player of the game, Layla Lincoln finished with a game high 25 points and 15 digs.
Teammate Raven Sessoms finished the night with 16 digs, six points and eight kills and assists. Taylor LaFountain finished with a double-double of 11 points and 11 digs.
Kendall Lawrence had 12 assists.
With the win, Saranac Lake advances to the regional semifinals of the NYSPHSAA Class C state playoffs.
They will play Canton, Wednesday with the game slated to begin at 8 p.m. at Massena.
"Our main goal is regionals and we said that before this game," Donaldson said. "This year our team is something special and we're going farther than that."
Saranac Lake 3, AuSable Valley 2
25-20, 16-25, 20-25, 25-16, 17-15
AVCS- Sessoms 6 points, 2 aces, 8 kills, 8 assists, 16 digs; Lawrence 5 points, 4 kills, 12 assists, 7 digs; Lincoln 25 points, 3 aces, 5 kills, 1 assist, 15 digs; LaFountain 11 points, 2 aces, 5 kills, 1 assist, 11 digs; Depo 4 points, 4 kills, 7 digs; Durgan 6 kills; Vincent 1 point; Keefe 5 points, 1 ace, 18 digs; Parrow 1 assist; Vilegi 2 assist.
SLCS- Ladue 17 points, 5 aces, 6 digs; Null 8 kills, 20 digs; Barry 15 points, 5 aces, 3 kills, 12 digs; Donaldson 2 points, 1 ace, 1 kill, 32 digs; Foster 6 points, 2 aces, 5 kills, 1 assist, 3 digs, 1 block; Gay 16 points, 6 aces, 3 kills, 19 assists, 12 digs; Isabella 3 kills, 7 digs; McBride 1 point, 1 ace, 1 kill, 8 digs; Hathaway 3 digs; Crane 1 kill, 1 block; Chenaille-Schenk 3 points, 1 dig.