The sight, coach Kalah Lipinski said, brought tears to her eyes.
Her John Jay High School volleyball team erupted into celebration as the final point hit the floor, finally champions after a season-long quest to fulfill its own expectations.
“They all just jumped straight up in the air and screamed,” Lipinski said. “You could just tell they were so pumped and so excited.”
The top-seeded Patriots captured the Section 1 Class AA championship on Saturday night at John Jay-Cross River High School, defeating No. 2 Suffern, 25-21, 25-17, 25-10.
The Patriots (20-1) will receive a bye into the state regional finals at 5 p.m. Saturday at Arlington High School, where it will play the winner of the match between the Section 9 and Section 4 champions. The round-robin state final four will be held Nov. 16 at the Glens Falls Civic Center, with the final scheduled for the day after.
As has been the case often this season, senior outside hitter led the Patriots’ attack, finishing with 21 kills, 29 digs and three blocks. Libero Chelsea Barberan added 21 digs of her own, and three assists.
“Megan and Chelsea were out there. You could just tell if that ball was hitting the floor, so were they,” Lipinski. “They dug some balls that I don’t know how they contorted their body to get it.”
Setter Courtney Barbara — “She’s my rock,” Lipinski said — handed out 31 assists and had seven digs. Middle hitters Taylor Luzzi and Sam Fitzgerald combined to compile 12 blocks, 11 digs and four kills, and Madelyn Barberan added 15 digs and seven kills.
The triumph came a year after the Patriots came up short in the sectional final, losing a three-game decision to Clarkstown South that Lipinski said was wrought with mental errors and nerves.
On Saturday night, the Patriots kept their cool throughout.
The Mounties challenged John Jay early in the match, storming back from a 5-0 deficit in the first game to eventually hold a 19-16 advantage. John Jay, though, closed by scoring nine of the next 11 points.
“We came out strong with eight points and all of a sudden we made 10 errors in a row,” Lipinski said. “I just said to them, ‘This is what we prepared for. You have to let the errors go and get back out there.’
“I was very pleased to see they understood what I was talking about.”
The second game followed a similar storyline, with Suffern clawing back from a 10-point deficit to cut John Jay’s lead to 22-17 before the Patriots put the game away.
“We tried to match their intensity as best we could,” Suffern senior Dejanae Smith said. “I think we were expecting it, but being in this atmosphere, all the nerves are there.”
John Jay cruised to the finish in the third game, scoring the final six points, ending with an uncontested ace.
“Game three, we’d been punched twice, and we didn’t respond as well as we needed to respond there,” Suffern coach Sean Barnes said.
Lipinski said her team’s mental toughness showed throughout, and noted each of Saturday’s starters experienced the championship loss a year ago.
The coach said her team will simply “continue to do what we do,” for the next week before the Patriots can continue on to their next goal in the regional final on Saturday.
“They just want it so bad,” she said. “I know they’re going to come in to practice and give it 110 percent.”