MONTROSE – When Kirstin Loh’s free ball found the floor of the Hendrick Hudson High School gymnasium to send the Sailors into the Section 1 Class A semifinals, her teammates mobbed the center of the court in celebration. Amidst the madness, Sailors head coach Diane Swertfager rested comfortably in her seat, arms stretched out over the chairs to each side of her, and smirked.
In a moment that ignited utter pandemonium, Swertfager appeared completely unfazed by what surrounded her.
“That’s an unusual play,” Swertfager said, describing the final play of a 21-25, 25-16, 18-25, 25-15, 25-21 quarterfinal win over Yorktown on Tuesday. “Obviously that wasn’t done on purpose.”
The fourth-seeded Sailors (15-3), who were moved up from Class B for the first time since 2007, avenged a regular-season loss to the fifth-seeded Huskers. Loh, a senior, said there were moments during the match when the reality of it potentially being the last of her high school career sank in.
“I had a lot of those moments,” she said. “I had to shake it off and know that my team is there for me and that we all want to win it.”
Sailors junior outside hitter Zoe Staats paced the team’s attack with 20 kills in just her second day back to playing without limitations after suffering a stress fracture in her fibula. Staats missed the first rendezvous with the Huskers due to the injury.
“It felt really awesome finally being back with the team,” Staats said, who noted that she did not feel any hesitation on the court. “I was just planning on taking it point by point.”
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Yorktown (15-3) jumped out to a healthy 23-13 lead to open the match before Hen Hud took seven of the next nine points. The Huskers held a 20-19 lead in the winner-take-all final set, which ultimately proved to be their last of the season.
Hen Hud setter Georgia Lee said the Sailors underestimated Yorktown in their first meeting on Oct. 13, but that they were more prepared this time around. “We kind of knew what they were doing and all of their tricks,” she said.
The Sailors will take on defending state finalist Panas (16-0) in the semifinals on Thursday. Swertfager said the team has every expectation of pulling off the upset against the top-ranked Class A team in the state.
“We’ve got a long season ahead of us,” she said. “We’re ready.”