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Snow Moon over North Hill by Cindy Schreiner

Wellsville volleyball falls in semi-finals; Cuba-Rushford advances to finals


No. 2 C-R moves into D2 Finals after dominant 3rd set start powers strong finish over Lyons; Lady Lions overpowered by No. 2 Midlakes in C1 Semis, season ends in straight-set sweep

By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor,

BATH — Four Allegany County squads were left standing with a chance to earn their way into the Finals this weekend, with the Semifinal round officially marking its beginning on Wednesday.

Among those still in the hunt, two of them were fighting for their Sectional lives at Bath-Haverling in a back-to-back, as Cuba-Rushford and Wellsville looked to take the one more step forward into the Finals this weekend.

Up first were the Lady Rebels, who have found the smoothest of grooves since the beginning of October after traveling down a rocky road through a first 10-game set that featured plenty of ups and downs. From that point entering their Class D2 Semifinal matchup, the team has rattled off six straight wins, now finding themselves needing just one more to make that giant leap back to the Finals once again.

No. 3 Lyons was the only barricade blocking the path between them and Section V’s biggest stage.

For much of the night, like the rest of the Semifinal battles, there was a ton of back-and-forth battling, with each team dealing one punch after another. That was the case for the Lady Lions and Lady Rebels through a highly competitive first three sets of their battle. But in the midst of it, an x-factor emerged.

An emergence of a tide being turned drastically.

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After a dominant third-set start against Lyons, the Lady Rebels were blazing a runaway trail to start the action. But little by little as time passed on, the deficit would keep getting smaller and smaller for Lyons. To the point where just a single point after an original nine-point lead evaporated.

But, it would not faze Cuba-Rushford one bit, as they held on until the end to keep their lead intact, allowing them to use the momentum from their resiliency to come away victorious in a dominant finish in the fourth and final set of the night, as the Lady Rebels warded off a strong, late and phenomenal push from Lyons down the homestretch to move into the Class D2 Finals on Saturday with a 25-23, 22-25, 25-22, 25-15 victory.

“It was a punch/counterpunch kind of deal. Finishing that third set, and then having Kendall (Tompkins) really step in and start us off strong was really big,” said Lady Rebels coach Josh Tompkins. “We just managed to keep that momentum through the rest of the set, and get the win. Lyons was tough. They were better than what they showed on film, and the girls, this has shown how much they’ve come along mentally since the start of the season. I was proud of them, despite some ups and downs, but when it came down to it, they got us to the Finals. This has been wicked.”

The first set would belong to the Lady Rebels (12-5) after an early lead they garnered was kept intact in the midst of their first of many back-and-forth battles with Lyons. It would grow to as much as 10 down the stretch before a massive run by the Lady Lions was collected in return. With a 21-13 Cuba-Rushford lead on the board, the No. 3 seeds would account for 10 of the next 12 to tie the match at 23, but some resiliency to overcome the late rush wound up being the difference to get the No. 2 seeds the match’s first lead.

Although they couldn’t find a way to complete their amazing rally, Lyons made sure to tie the match evenly in the next set with the Lady Rebels. With an even exchange through the beginning stages, the Lady Lions went on to score seven straight points after an 11-11 tie to grab a big upper-hand. The momentum they had built was nearly lost behind a late push from the Lady Rebels, as they furiously closed the gap. But the late rally was not enough to complete in the end, as the match navigated its way towards the 1-1 tie.

Going into the third set, that was when the tide began to turn for Cuba-Rushford.

Starting out on fire with an 11-2 start against Lyons, it was held for as long as possible before their opposition was able to cut down the deficit little by little along the way. From what was a nine-point lead, it evaporated down to a single point in the final moments. But the Lady Rebels would grab the finishing touches they wanted to push the Lady Lions towards the brink of elimination.

The momentum would carry over, as the Lady Rebels finished off the victory with one more big lead of Lyons, holding it until the end to punch their return ticket back to the Finals for the first time in three years.

They could not have done it without the efforts of their young setter, Kendall Tompkins, who was dynamite all match long after scoring a game-high 27 assists to go with her seven aces, three digs and one kill. The offense saw a dual-threat emerge with the help of Bri Green and Lilah Stroud, as they combined to record 25 kills, with Green leading the team with 14 to go with three blocks and two aces, while Stroud had 11 to pair with three blocks. Lauren O’Keefe helped further the cause with eight digs on defense, five aces and three kills of her own.

Cuba-Rushford will now prepare to face one of New York State’s finest on the volleyball court for all the marbles on Saturday, as they take on top-seeded Pavilion in the Class D2 Finals beginning at 2 p.m. in Warsaw. It was a moment that Tompkins, at the beginning of the season, thought wouldn’t be possible.

“The beginning of the season, I definitely did not picture this. Our season was mainly focused all about improving,” he said. “Seeing that over the course of the season, you can reap some of the benefits from it. The girls have come a long way, and they’ve earned this opportunity. Pavilion is tough, and they have two girls that are really strong. They aren’t unbeatable, but we will throw everything we’ve got at them and hopefully we can take a banner home. We see improvement, and hopefully we can keep seeing that to have another great day.”

After the Lady Rebels secured their spot in the title game this weekend, it was Wellsville’s turn to do the same thing against No. 2 Midlakes to wrap up the night in Bath.

The Lady Lions would give everything they had in the tank to counter the Lady Screaming Eagles and their attack, but in the end, the counter-attack proved to be just as powerful.

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As soon as Wellsville attempted to chip away at some of their early deficits against Midlakes, the resilience the Lady Screaming Eagles would provide to branch those back out, was even greater, as they used it to record a straight-set sweep to end the Lady Lions season to close out the night in Bath, scoring the 25-18, 25-18, 25-17 victory to advance into the Class C1 Finals this weekend.

It would begin right from the hop for Midlakes after some initial back-and-forth swings, as they found their rhythm with six points in a row after an early 5-5 tie to take the lead they ultimately would keep intact. Wellsville (14-3) would begin the first of multiple attempts to chip away at their deficit with some brilliant serving from Bry Moultrup helping initialize a late rally from behind, but Midlakes would hang on to capture the first 25-18 victory.

It was more of the same story in the second set when the Lady Lions rallied with five unanswered points to tie the match at 10 during one point in the early stages. With another Lady Screaming Eagles run helping them jump back out into the lead, the deficit was cut down to just two points later on with more resiliency to keep the pressure on. But they would ultimately receive a shove towards the brink after Midlakes finished up with six of the final seven points to record the 2-0 advantage.

The momentum continued to rise in what was the final set of the night, as the Lady Screaming Eagles dominated the early service with an 8-1 lead of Wellsville to begin, blossoming the advantage even larger to 10 on one occasion, and later, 12 points two different times down the stretch. Although the Lady Lions faced their biggest deficit of the game, down 20-8, they would make one final attempt to jump back into the game, scoring the next six points to trim it down.

But the late rush would wind up being too much to overcome in the end, as Midlakes found a way to finish off the straight-set win to end Wellsville’s season.

Individual statistics for Wellsville were not made available to report upon publication.

Another marvelous season of volleyball is in the books for the Lady Lions, as they wrap up their 2022 campaign with a record of 14-3 overall. The team will say goodbye to four seniors in Moultrup, Emma Dunaway, Macey Wyant and Ane Molina-Janquera.

Class D1 Semifinals

No. 7 Bolivar-Richburg 1, No. 2 Letchworth 3

WAYLAND — Another team that has been playing some of their best volleyball of the season, are the Lady Wolverines of Bolivar-Richburg. Finishing up the regular season with wins in four of their last six games, including three straight across the Sectional tournament, the drive forward to the Class D1 Semifinals gave them a big boost of energy.

They would need it against one of Section V’s best on the court — No. 2 Letchworth, who was aiming for a return trip back to the Finals themselves, seeking redemption.

Through the first three sets of the night, both teams were wheeling and dealing across the board. With one set for each squad already in the bag, it would set up a collision course for a marathon third set, where the leads in between were no larger than the same amount of points needed to capture the win in extra serves — two.

That was picked up by the Lady Wolverines to avoid a straight-set decision from Letchworth. But what momentum they would gain from it, the Lady Indians wiped it completely.

The fourth and final set of the night at Wayland-Cohocton consisted of a dominant flurry of points going Letchworth’s way, assisting in garner a massive lead by as many as 10 points down the stretch towards the end, holding it strong to provide a dominant finish against No. 7 Bolivar-Richburg to end their magic carpet ride through Sectionals in four sets, taking the 25-23, 25-22, 25-27, 25-12 decision to advance into the championship round this weekend.

Through back-and-forth battles in the first two sets, the decisions were able to be captured by Letchworth, beginning in the opening set after a red hot start served up a lead by as much as eight in the early stages. Bolivar-Richburg (12-7) would not let the early hole get any deeper, scoring seven points in a row to pull the game towards a 20-20 tie, setting up a teeter-totter affair to close out the first set with a 25-23 Lady Indians win.

The pace was cemented into the next set, where Letchworth would secure a 2-0 lead on the Lady Wolverines moving forward after multiple ties that were forced by the No. 7 seeds were ultimately broken by the Lady Indians, with the last coming after they forced a 22-22 tie at the end which resulted in three consecutive points to close out the action.

Bolivar-Richburg would make sure that their season did not end in a direct straight-set sweep to the hands of Letchworth, as they fought tooth and nail through perhaps the most competitive set of the night where no lead was bigger than a pair of points between the two foes. In extra serves, the Lady Wolverines were able to collect the two points needed to take the victory to cut their match deficit straight down the middle.

But whatever momentum that the Lady Wolverines were able to gain from a huge victory, was completely wiped out by Letchworth in what was the final set of the battle, as they scurried away rapidly with a double-digit lead after getting a quick jump in the beginning stages, holding the tempo in their favor from start to finish to complete the four-set victory with a 25-12 triumph.

Individual statistics for the Lady Wolverines were not made available to report upon publication.

Bolivar-Richburg’s season has officially reached its end, as their 2022 campaign wraps up with a record of 12-7 overall. The majority of the team will be back again for another go-around on the court, as they lose just one senior in Haley Mascho to Graduation this June.

Class D3 Semifinals

No. 1 C.G. Finney 3, No. 4 Houghton Academy 2

LEROY — This was perhaps the most reminiscent of a true back-and-forth battle the night would see between No. 4 Houghton Academy and top-seeded C.G. Finney for a spot in this weekend’s Class D3 Finals.

Across the entire match, the Lady Panthers and Lady Falcons were in a drag race, side-by-side with one another on the race track. There was never a lead that eclipsed larger than six points during any point of the battle.

It was only appropriate for the match to come down to the wire, in the midst of their high-wire act in the Semifinal round.

All five sets were needed to determine who was going to vie for a Sectional title this weekend. It was determined through the very trend that the night set — neck-and-neck. Through it all, it was an edge that the Lady Falcons were able to garner at the very last moment, as they held on for dear life to send the Lady Panthers home packing from LeRoy with a 22-25, 25-22, 25-27, 25-19, 15-13 victory.

“My girls went in as the underdog playing the top seed, and they gave it everything they had against a quality opponent, almost pulling out the win,” said Lady Panthers coach Kathie Hilsher. “They have really figured out how to play together and how to encourage each other as the season went on. I am so proud of their effort and their good sportsmanship. Jessica Adenuga almost made it to 200 kills this season, and Jess Prentice was able to break 300 this season in kills and digs. These two have been amazing leaders for the team, and they will really be missed. I am lucky to coach such amazing young ladies.”

In every sense of the match, it could have gone either way. Each team went back and forth all night long with Houghton Academy (11-8) garnering wins in the first and third sets, while C.G. Finney followed suit with wins in the second and fourth sets to continue racing stride for stride with the Lady Panthers.

It wasn’t until the third set, when the match’s largest lead of the night at that point was garnered by the Lady Falcons. After an 11-11 tie, an opening was created with six straight points to battle their way ahead with the lead. But on the other side of the court, Houghton Academy would find their way to climb back into it, and fast.

To close out the set and force extra serves, they would complete the comeback irrepressibly with an 8-4 run to close the gap to a pair of points, a 21-19 lead for the top seeds coming down the homestretch. It would then revert back to a teeter-totter affair for the final moments, where Houghton Academy was able to provide a strong finish to complete the comeback with an epic 27-25 victory to push the Lady Falcons to the brink.

The response though, was even greater.

In the fourth set, C.G. Finney was able to garner yet another humongous lead of the Lady Panthers to foil the momentum they had just built on the other side. With an 18-18 tie displaying on the board, the top seeds would go on to close out the set on the strongest of notes, netting seven of the final eight points, including six in a row to work towards their eventual match-tying 25-19 win to force a decisive fifth and penultimate set.

To close out, the back-and-forth tempo would settle in one last time, as both teams delivered punches one after another until the smallest of openings was created by the Lady Falcons to sneak through and escape, maintaining their fourth-set momentum to the end to capture the five-set win after an incredible battle of volleyball.

Leading the way for the Lady Panthers was Prentice, who was everywhere on the floor with 31 digs, 15 kills and three blocks. Her dynamic tag-team partner in Jessica Adenuga chipped in with 22 more digs, 14 kills and four blocks of her own to round off an epic final performance for Houghton Academy.

The curtain has come down on the Lady Panthers as their 2022 campaign officially comes to a close, finishing with a record of 11-8 overall. The team will graduate three seniors at the end of the school year in both Prentice and Adenuga, who join Rama Samba in graduation this June.

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