Class B final preview
No. 2 Hen Hud (19-2) vs. No. 4 Ardsley (16-4)
When: Saturday at 6 p.m.
Where: Walter Panas H.S.
Key players: Hen Hud — Emily Barthelmes, Sr., S; Lindsay Pelaccio, Sr., L; Zoe Staats, So., OPP; Gillian Stieglitz, Sr., OH. Ardsley — Nicolina Chenard, Sr., OH; Christina Chu, So., S; Marie McNerney, Sr., OH; Danielle Morano, Sr., MB.
Outlook: Talk about flipping the script.
Two years ago, Ardsley entered the Class B final as the undefeated heavy favorite and was up-ended by 10-seed Cinderella Hen Hud. This year, the Sailors are the fourth-ranked team in the state, while the defending champion Panthers have been winning one big playoff match after another on its way to a third consecutive finals appearance.
Ardsley has used its, for all intents and purposes, “low expectations” for the season as fuel to fire its drive for back-to-back titles. After going undefeated throughout the regular season the past two years, the Panthers were hit heavy by graduation and have still managed to return to the title match.
Hen Hud has been a mainstay in Section 1 as long as most of the girls in this match have been alive, winning 12 section titles in the last 14 years, and Sailors head coach Diane Swertfager never makes it a secret that the goal is to win a section title each year. With each team having ended each other’s season the past two seasons (Ardsley beat Hen Hud in last year’s semifinal, which many thought should’ve been the finals matchup had seeding not bumped Hen Hud to a 4-seed), there’s about as much bad blood between these two as Taylor Swift has for her exes.
Prediction: A lot of excitement? While Hen Hud is exceptionally well-rounded, it will likely be without standout outside hitter Kirstin Loh, who sprained her ankle a few days ago. Still, with Stieglitz and Staats on both ends of the net and one of the best setters in the section, Barthelmes, feeding them, the Sailors will be in fine shape. Ardsley runs most of its offense through Chenard, which shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as how few teams can stop her. I had Hen Hud winning it all in the preseason, and I think that is still the safest bet. I’m saying Sailors in four, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-20.