ORANGEBURG – The red and white balloons made for an alluring ambiance in the Tappan Zee High School gymnasium, but the pregame Senior Night ceremony was not the reason the Dutchies were in uniform Friday afternoon.
“We had to stay focused on what the real goal was, and it was sections,” Tappan Zee senior Danielle Kowalchuk said. “The goal was to get everyone back to being focused on how we need to play so that we can play our hardest out here.”
The sixth-seeded Dutchies (14-4) outlasted a resilient and relentless Eastchester team over five sets in the first round of the Section 1 Class A tournament, 25-13, 26-28, 25-19, 21-25, 25-20. Tappan Zee will travel to play third-seeded Pelham in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
“I think that we just wanted to win today,” Dutchies head coach Mark Stanford said after the match. “Section time, if you leave everything on the floor, I’m okay with whatever the result is.”
The win avenged a loss to the Eagles in the finals of the Scarsdale tournament earlier this year.
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Kowalchuk said the seniors had “didn’t accept the fact” that Friday would be their final high school volleyball match, and did their best to lead by example.
Senior setter Hayley McCloskey, playing in just her second match back from a sprained foot suffered against Nyack on Oct. 6, showed no restraint on the court by diving into the scorer’s table chasing a loose ball.
“You’ve got to push through the pain,” said McCloskey, who was still panting from exhaustion after the match. “Our back row players were running 10 feet past the end line trying to get balls back in. We were just hustling everywhere and playing our hardest and I’m so proud of my team.”
Hailie Festa led the offensive attack with 22 kills. McCloskey tallied 40 assists to go with seven kills. Kaitlyn Borruso, Tara Coyne, and Kayla McKiernan each added six kills for the Dutchies.
Eastchester libero Daniella Chiodi was sensational in her swan song, digging up 49 balls on the defensive end. Fellow senior Karly DiSanto had 32 assists for the Eagles.
Tappan Zee assistant coach Chris Lorusso said he pointed out to the team that Pelham had an assistant in attendance scouting the match. Stanford was coy when asked about the Pelicans.
“We know they’re a higher seed than we are,” he said of the 2011 and 2012 regional champions. “They’re a great program, they’ve been a great program every year, and we’re going to have to come ready to compete.”