Cassi Diamond tried to prepare her Spackenkill High School for what it may see on Thursday night.
Each day during the past week, she reminder her Spartans if they managed to win their Mid-Hudson Athletic League tournament semifinal game, they would need to be mentally and physically ready to compete in the final immediately after. For most of Diamond’s players, playing two high school matches in one night was a completely new experience.
“I hoped that it would sink in,” Diamond said, “and I guess it did.”
Spackenkill jumped on defending champion Millbrook in the championship match on Thursday at SUNY Ulster to win its first MHAL championship, 25-10, 18-25, 25-20, 25-18.
“They stayed on their toes, they were ready to go and were excited,” Diamond said. “They knew that this is their year, and they have to step up and take it.”
Brianna McKee led Spackenkill (19-2) with 14 kills and 15 digs, while Nur Sher provided eight kills, 16 assists and 12 digs, and Morgan Hoeft added 21 assists, five kills and eight aces.
Audrey Ouimet finished with nine kills for Millbrook (13-4), while Amanda Critelli had 16 digs and Meredith Dignan handed out 22 assists.
Millbrook coach Shawn Stoliker said his team “lacked energy,” and played flat, especially in the opening game.
Spackenkill topped Saugerties in four games, 25-14, 23-25, 25-20, 25-16, in the semifinals, while Millbrook needed five games to get past Franklin D. Roosevelt, 25-23, 20-25, 25-19, 16-25, 25-20. The championship started 30 minutes after Millbrook ended its match.
“I thought maybe them sitting so long would be to our advantage,” Stoliker said. “It was the opposite.”
Stoliker added his team “allowed two many runs in the last two games.”
Dignan had 38 assists against Roosevelt (15-2) in the semifinals, and Critelli had 24 digs. Ouimet totaled 16 kills and 14 digs, and Cassie Weaver added nine kills and 18 digs.
Taylor Mohan collected 12 kills and four aces against Saugerties (13-5) in the semifinals, and Anilee Sher had four aces.
The victory was especially important to the Spartans given the teams’ history; Millbrook defeated Spackenkill in the MHAL semifinals a year ago, as well as the Section 9 Class B final.
Spackenkill is the top seed in this year’s Class B tournament, and received a bye into the semifinal on Nov. 1, when it will play the winner between No. 4 John S. Burke Catholic and No. 5 Rhinebeck. Millbrook is the No. 2 seed and will host No. 7 Dover in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
While any league championship can provide a team with momentum entering sectionals, Diamond said Thursday’s victory was “huge, especially when it comes to us and Millbrook.”
“Taking the regular-season game with them and taking this game with them is a huge confidence boost for us.”
As the teams are on opposite sides of the bracket, any rematch between the Blazers and Spartans would come with the sectional title on the line.
“It’s two solid teams and it would come down to who makes the fewest errors,” Stoliker said. “In my eyes, if we play the way we want to play, it would be an awesome match.”