ALBION — Immediately upon walking into the Albion HS gym on Tuesday evening, you could tell that the volleyball match being contested was a meaningful one. The stands were packed to the rafters, as Albion and Iroquois fans took turns leading cheers and stomping feet, in an attempt to give their respective teams that extra edge.
The home-court advantage pushed Albion in the right direction, and the No. 2 Lady Purple Eagles held off No. 7 Iroquois in a five-set thriller, in a Class B quarterfinal game. With the 3-2 victory, Albion moves on to face No. 3 Cheektowaga in a semifinal matchup, to be held at 6 p.m. Friday in Albion.
“I’d say it was pretty intense,” veteran Albion coach Ann Capacci said. “It was really back-and-forth. We had some key serving spots, and the kids just refused to lose. They didn’t want the ball to hit the floor.”
The match was filled with momentum swings, as one team would seem to take control with a seven- or-eight point run, only to be answered with a similar run by the opposition.
Albion won the first set 25-22, holding on after taking a 22-14 lead. Iroquois countered with a tense 25-23 victory in the second set, rallying after Albion took a 23-22 edge.
The Lady Purple Eagles rebounded to win the third set 25-22 in another closely contested back-and-forth battle. Again, Iroquois struck back, easily winning the fourth set 25-15 to set up the decisive fifth set.
With the fifth set tied at 10, somebody needed to step up, providing the spark that would edge her team to victory. That girl proved to be Albion freshman Chanyce Powell, who answered the bell with several hard spiking kills late in the set that drew the pro-Albion crowd into a frenzy. Each of Powell’s points was met with an enthusiastic cheer from Capacci and the Albion sideline (which included Albion athletic director Randy Knaak), in addition to plenty of high-fiving and fist-pumping from the players on the court.
Albion won the fifth set 25-18, and lives to play another day.
“Chanyce came up with some big blocks and kills, and Kelsee Soule had some solid serving for us, which was huge,” Capacci said. “Just everybody digging down, playing hard and not letting the ball hit the floor.”
Soule, a sophomore, led the Lady Purple Eagles against Iroquois with 13 kills, 21 digs and three aces, while Powell added nine kills, three digs, two aces and six blocks. Senior Brooke Wilson had seven kills, six digs, five aces and a block, and junior Michaela Lake chipped in with 17 digs and an ace.
Sophomore Meghan Hurley had four kills, 11 digs, two aces and 15 assists, senior Jasmyn Smith had 12 assists and two aces, and freshman Aleah Foos contributed three kills and two digs. Quite an all-around team effort indeed for the squad, which has preached team chemistry and cohesion from day one.
Albion played at Cheektowaga in a non-league contest last week, falling in five sets, Capacci said. The veteran coach said the Lady Purple Eagles didn’t have their best performance that day, and that it will be nice to have Cheektowaga travel up to Albion this time, as opposed to the other way around.
Either way, the gutsy late-match effort across the board ensures the Lady Purple Eagles of at least one more match. For a team that consists predominantly of underclassmen, a run to the sectional semifinals isn’t half-bad, regardless of Friday’s outcome.
“We keep it alive,” Capacci said.
Southwestern 3, Medina 0
WEST ELLICOTT — After an impressive upset of No. 4 East HS in Buffalo, the Lady Mustangs suffered a season-ending loss at the hands of No. 5 Southwestern, in the Class C volleyball quarterfinals on Tuesday evening.
It was a long 108-mile trek to West Ellicott for coach Tim Lincoln and the No. 13 Lady Mustangs, who were led by Jenna Carpenter and Nicole Blount with four kills apiece. Emily Kams had eight assists for Medina, while Felisha Houseman added three aces.
Medina lost the first set 25-9 and second set 25-12, before dropping the decisive third set by a 25-11 margin.