By Kevin Prise
ALBION — The Lady Purple Eagles seemingly used all the energy they had in an emotional five-set victory over Iroquois in a Class B volleyball quarterfinal matchup on Tuesday.
Against Cheektowaga on Friday, the Albion squad made much quicker work of the opposition. The Lady Purple Eagles burst out of the gate with intensity, demonstrating effective chemistry across the floor and repeatedly sending the Lady Warriors to their heels.
The result was a quick three-set victory for No. 2 Albion over No. 3 Cheektowaga, in a Class B semifinal matchup on Friday evening. With the win, the Lady Purple Eagles advance to face No. 8 Starpoint in the Class B championship tonight. Start time is slated for 8 p.m. at Sweet Home High School.
"They're a good team," Albion coach Ann Capacci said. "A very good team. Our kids were kind of clicking tonight. It's a lot of fun to play at home, and to have as many supportive people as we do over here, it makes it that much easier."
With Albion fans maintaining the exuberant energy they displayed in the Iroquois game, Capacci urged the team to play together as they broke the pregame huddle. The first few points of the opening set were tightly contested, with Albion playing to a 10-9 lead.
But then Capacci's crew got hot. The Lady Purple Eagles scored six consecutive points to take a 16-9 lead and force a Cheektowaga timeout, at which point some Albion players took the opportunity to pump up the crowd.
Albion added two more after the timeout to take an 18-9 edge, cruising to a 25-13 victory in the opening set. The score was identical in the second set, and the Lady Purple Eagles wrapped things up with a 25-16 victory in set three.
In that decisive set, Cheektowaga jumped to an early 7-5 lead, but Albion took seven of the next eight points to take a 12-8 edge. The Lady Warriors cut the deficit to 13-12, before a hard return at the net by Kelsee Soule shifted the tide. Soule gave a little one-two fist pump once the ball landed in play, and the crowd erupted.
Albion won 12 of the final 16 points, with the winning point coming off the arm of freshman Aleah Foos, who produced a well-placed return that Cheektowaga couldn't handle.
A standing ovation was in order, and just like that, Albion is in the sectional championship.
"This is a one-game tournament," Capacci said. "Lose and you're done. We have to leave it all on the floor every night."
Soule led the Purple Eagles with 12 kills, 10 digs and three aces, while Chanyce Powell added six kills, four digs, three blocks and an ace. Foos had five blocks, four kills and three aces, and Micheala Lake had 14 digs and an assist.
Meghan Hurley had 11 assists, six digs and four kills, while Brooke Wilson had four digs and two kills. Jasmyn Smith had 10 assists, five digs, three kills and an ace.
"It felt great to get the win," Soule said. "We were really pumped before the game, really focused. For Monday, we just need to make sure to keep our energy up, and it should get us going."